Although businesses and economies around the world were affected by the pandemic last year, SaaS growth continues to boom. According to Brandon Medboard, senior principal analyst at Gartner, enterprises are accelerating their timelines for digital business initiatives and rapidly moving to the cloud to modernize their environments, improve system reliability, support hybrid work models and address other new realities created by the pandemic. In fact, Gartner predicts that end-user spending on public cloud services will reach $396 billion in 2021 and grow 22% to $482 billion by 2022.
SaaS businesses face very unique challenges when it comes to marketing, and that means you need a specific set of tools and skills to overcome those challenges and achieve your goals. From converting free users into paying customers to perfecting your sales funnel to retaining users to maximize lifetime value, the customer journey for B2B SaaS companies is complex to optimize. With tens of thousands of new startups entering the market every day, and 61% of startups offering B2B solutions globally, the potential for a company to truly scale and become a great standalone business is more important than ever. A great product is a good foundation, but a clear go-to-market strategy is essential to stay on top of things. After all, it’s a big world out there.
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A go-to-market (GTM) strategy is a step-by-step plan created to successfully bring a product to market. A good GTM strategy usually identifies a target audience, includes a marketing plan, and outlines a sales strategy. Although every product and market is different, a GTM strategy should identify a market problem and position the product as a solution.
If you are launching a new product, the last thing you want to do is launch it without a proper GTM strategy. Without proper planning, it’s impossible to know if you are targeting the wrong audience, are too early or too late in a particular market, or are targeting a market that’s too saturated with similar solutions – and you do not want to risk wasting time and resources launching an unprofitable product.
Even the best ideas can fail if not implemented effectively – it’s a well-known fact that 90% of all startups fail, and 21.5% of them fail within the first year. Creating a GTM plan can prevent many of the mistakes and failures that can occur when launching new products. Poor product-market fit and oversaturation can hinder a launch-even if the product is well designed and innovative. While a GTM strategy is no guarantee that a launch will fail, it can help manage expectations and address any inconsistencies before you invest in bringing a product to market.
Marketing Strategy vs Go-to-Market Strategy
A marketing strategy focuses on how a company can reach a particular market over time and deliver on its value proposition. A go-to-market strategy focuses on how to bring new products or services to market. The former is long-term and company-oriented, while the latter is short-term and product-oriented. GTM strategy is a subset of general marketing strategy, but there are unique differences between the two. Regardless of the size of the company, you need to align both strategies to achieve your goals.
Here are the key differences between the two strategies:
When Do You Need a Go-To-Market Strategy?
Business development professionals need to stay on top of the latest trends and developments in the market. The key is to ensure that this strategy is adaptable and able to pivot at a moment’s notice. Given the volatility of individual markets, committing to a rigid, inflexible approach can have dire consequences. A company must have a functioning system that can take into account new information and adapt accordingly.
These are some examples of when a GTM plan needs to be created or modified:
- You need to develop the right channels and optimize them over time.
- You plan to expand your service portfolio (in terms of new products/services, regions served, etc.).
- Your company is already active in the B2B SaaS sector and you need to increase your conversion rate.
- You do not have competent resources to achieve consistent pipeline growth.
- You are planning to expand into a new demographic.
Or maybe you are at the beginning of a new, albeit somewhat vague, niche or vertical.
6 Tactics for Your B2B SaaS Go-to-Market Strategy
1. Research Your Target Audience
When preparing your product for market, the first thing you should do is think about your customers and capture your buying group personas. According to Gartner, the typical buying group for a complex B2B solution includes 6 to 10 decision makers, each of whom has 4 or 5 pieces of information that they have gathered independently and need to reconcile with the group. At the same time, they are making choices about technologies, products, suppliers, and services. These decision makers are called the “buyer group” and consist of 6 B2B buying jobs. The jobs vary depending on the product, industry and vertical you are selling to. Research each job function to get an overview of their responsibilities, their goals, and their issues. It’s important to understand who these people are, what motivates them, and what their problems are, because they are the key decision makers who will bring your product to market.
2. Create a Value Matrix to Identify Pain Points and Messaging
The value matrix is used to communicate the purpose and reason for the product to all stakeholders, including the specific need that will be met. It is a breakdown of each buying persona, their business pain points, and how your product solves those problems. The messaging needs to capture the pain point and value in a meaningful way and should be different for each buying persona.
Here is an example of a value matrix:
3. Rapid Experimentation through Channel, Audience, and Message Testing
Your messaging is the single most important factor contributing to your conversion rate. Start testing marketing platforms using the messages you just created for the different personas. There are 3 testing variables, that include the channel you want to advertise on, the target audience and the messaging. When deciding which advertising channel to start testing on, you need to research where your target audience is.
Depending on your industry, each B2B marketing channel may differ in its effectiveness with your target audience and the way each B2B company operates. Email marketing, SEO, and social media lead the way in attracting leads. When it comes to driving sales, email marketing, SEO, and PPC are best. Paid digital advertising channels can include LinkedIn, Google / Bing Ads, Twitter and Facebook. A quick experimentation with the different channels will help you decide which are most beneficial when comparing the different Key Performance Indicators (KPIS) in terms of engagement and conversion rates to determine which value proposition and pain points work best. The key is to spend your money where you will get the greatest return on investment (ROI).
4. Defining and Fine-Tuning the Buyer Journey
As new data from your marketing and sales efforts will come in, you’ll need to dive deeper to understand a prospect’s journey from both the buyer’s and the company’s perspective. In the past, a B2B sales funnel consisted of the following steps: Awareness, Interest, Consideration, Intent, Evaluation, and Purchase. Companies divided buyer journey campaigns into top of funnel, middle of funnel, and bottom of the funnel. Well, that’s not how it’s handled today. The new sales funnel, especially for a B2B SaaS company, takes the form of a flywheel model where customers go through three stages: attract, engage, and delight. This is a more holistic approach that puts the customer first and turns your leads from prospects into MQLs, SQLs, and active promoters of your brand, keeping the flywheel going and helping you grow better.
5. Choosing your Sales Strategy
There are generally four go-to-market strategies, each tailored to a different product and business model: Self-service, inside sales, outside sales, and channel model. There is no one method that is right for every product or market. Therefore, it is important to consider factors such as complexity, cost, sales cycle, profitability, and scalability. Evaluation and segmentation, combined with new thinking about the roles you need in each channel, can help you provide better service to your diverse customer base while creating opportunities to reduce costs.
6. Increase Awareness & Demand Generation
Demand Generation is a data-driven marketing program that uses both inbound and outbound methods to drive awareness and interest throughout the buyer and customer lifecycle. In an inbound strategy, potential customers discover your brand through marketing efforts and contact you or show interest organically. In an outbound marketing strategy, a sales representative contacts the prospect using cold calling tactics. He may do this by reaching out to a contact list, sending emails, cold calling, or meeting prospects at industry conferences.
7. Test, Learn, Repeat
Sales is a numbers game, and you can only succeed by measuring and optimizing your progress. As opportunities go through the flywheel, you’ll gain a deeper understanding of where opportunities fall out or the best path to take. You need to define the important KPIs for your business and optimize the conversion rate between each stage.
11 Tools for Your B2B SaaS Go-to-Market Strategy
Depending on your business model and market segmentation, some of these tools may be better suited for some companies than others. This list is by no means exhaustive, nor is it meant to be taken in isolation. It is only meant to serve as a guide and starting point for developing your own customized B2B SaaS marketing strategy.
With that said, here is a list of tools you should consider:
Perhaps the best free CRM software on the market today. HubSpot CRM is a comprehensive marketing automation platform that enables your sales team to generate more leads, convert those leads into qualified sales opportunities, and ultimately close the deal with them. The tool provides your sales and marketing teams with all the data they need to productively sell products/services and does a great job at it.
You can use HubSpot to:
- Monitor the effectiveness of your marketing efforts by combining sales intelligence and business intelligence (BI) into one system. For example, you can see which of your content updates are resonating with which audiences and which channels are working best for you. You can then optimize your spending on those channels accordingly to make the most of your marketing budget.
- Measure how productive each sales person’s pipeline is. For example, you can remove the least productive reps from your CRM.
- Run lead generation campaigns and measure the results. For example, if you use HubSpot CRM to generate leads, you can use the characteristics of low-cost leads under, say, $500 (called “latent demand”) to figure out how much market share they will give your company in terms of new customers.
Salesforce is a powerful B2B sales platform that offers a wide range of CRM, lead management, and automation tools to help you create more business opportunities at every touchpoint of the deal. Designed for small businesses looking to grow quickly, Salesforce helps you get to customer success faster by streamlining your business processes. As such, it offers:
- Lead management tools that help you convert your leads into business. For example, they make it easier to create email campaigns, send automated reminders, and measure the effectiveness of your lead management techniques.
- Data-driven insights to continuously improve your business operations. For example, it has an integrated database of more than 50 million queries to help you forecast your key growth metrics so you can better meet your revenue goals and ensure optimal profitability.
- A team collaboration tool that allows employees to work with each other and share ideas for various projects related to growing the company’s customer base.
SEMrush is a comprehensive B2B SEO platform that measures the effectiveness of your online marketing campaigns in terms of their ranking and traffic. This is possible through a comprehensive analysis of your website’s backlinks and natural keyword rankings.
A rating of 8.9/10 on TrustRadius is certainly a testament to the popularity of this tool. A large part of this is due to the idea of increasing the visibility of websites in search engines, a facet that SEMrush excels at by providing a comprehensive search query knowledge base.
Below are some ways SEMrush can help you improve your rankings and increase traffic to your website:
- It has an organic traffic estimator that allows you to estimate how much traffic each keyword will bring when used as a search term on Google, Bing, etc.
- It creates detailed analytics that allow you to see which pages are bringing the most traffic to your site and which are not performing as well.
- You can track the backlinks pointing to your website and measure the quality of those links. This allows you to assess their impact on your online presence.
- It generates a list of low-cost, high-conversion keywords that you can use in blog posts, videos, or product descriptions.
More than 25,000 businesses use Sprout Social’s powerful social media management and optimization platform to build and manage their online presence and engage with customers on social media. This tool manages your social media conversations on major platforms such as Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Instagram, etc.
Sprout Social also offers the following features that can help you develop a holistic marketing strategy:
- A social media listening tool that allows you to track mentions of your brand, your products, and your competitors across all social media channels. This way, you have your finger on the pulse of industry trends and news affecting your business and your competitors.
- A keyword research tool that allows you to see how many times a particular keyword is used each month on Twitter, Facebook, Google+, etc.
- An engagement platform that measures the performance of each of your posts, with all the analytics you need to determine which posts are doing well and which are not.
Understanding user behavior is critical to building a successful marketing strategy, and Mixpanel is a B2B analytics platform that helps you do just that. The company’s free version is built around the idea of collecting, analyzing, and leveraging data about web traffic. You can use it to track dozens of different actions on your website.
Here is what you can do with it:
- Determine what types of user interactions are affecting your site’s conversion rate and measure your content marketing efforts.
- Break down user behavior into different segments to develop an effective strategy to increase conversion rates.
- Examine the data to find out if visitors are coming from a specific website or using a specific search engine – and which of them are more likely to make a purchase decision.
Appsflyer has been recognized as a “Mobile Attribution Leader” by G2 and TrustRadius. The company’s mobile attribution and marketing analytics platform provides comprehensive performance measurements and a marketing automation suite to track the entire user conversion process: from awareness to acquisition to in-app purchase or approval.
Appsflyer provides users with a single dashboard to streamline their user acquisition, retention, and monetization efforts with all the performance measurement data they need:
- Measure and analyze the performance of any campaign or ad channel across all targeting devices and geographies.
- Capture how long it takes to acquire new users and how they interact with your app and website.
- Identify the best performing apps to use as a template for launching an app or website.
- Determine which of your campaigns will generate the highest customer lifetime value (CLV).
- Create campaigns that target the users most likely to make a purchase decision for your app or website, using real-time market data to help you optimize your strategy for maximum revenue potential.
Wynter is a B2B Buyer Intelligence tool that helps you find out what B2B buyers in your target market are thinking and how your messages are resonating with them. You can use Wynter to find answers to questions like: What are your target audience’s biggest pain points, what do your target customers want, where exactly is the gap between customer frustration and what your competitors are doing, and what are the wins your target audience wants to achieve.
You can use Wynter to improve your marketing and messaging, such as:
- Tailor your message to your market
- Understand the customer’s jobs-to-be-done
- Improve the response rates of your outbound emails
- Speed up your feedback loops
TrueNorth is the Growth Marketing Platform that allows you to focus, align and track your marketing in one place so that everyone and everything is working towards your marketing goals. This platform centralises your goals and serves as a guide to your team for the right direction, how to get there to scale effectively, what you plan to do to move forward quickly, and results and insights to improve decision making.
With TrueNorth, you can calculate the effectiveness of different marketing campaigns before you launch them. This allows you to compare campaign creations, verify you are on track to meet your goals, and launch campaigns with confidence. Key features include:
- Project the ROI of campaigns before they go live.
- Create and manage campaign ideas from one place.
- Calculate the outcome of campaigns and prioritise based on the projected results.
- Allocate budgets based on predicted results from campaigns to better understand where your marketing investments are best spent.
- Track spend alongside results and optimise budgets to maximise performance as your campaigns mature.
- Show stakeholders and executives the impact of campaigns by mapping ROI to the KPIs that really matter.
Intercom is a platform that automates customer support and lead generation for SaaS companies. As mentioned earlier, the SaaS customer journey is long and varied, ranging from initial visits to email signups to purchases, support requests, and more. Intercom helps SaaS companies manage these interactions across the entire customer journey and gather information that can improve the quality of long-term relationships. This starts with lead generation, where you can use Intercom to reach website visitors with a chatbot widget. Sometimes all it takes is the right question to trigger an action, and you can automate your bots to only trigger after a delay or certain user actions.
Intercom’s key features include:
- On-site chatbots that provide instant responses.
- Live chat to connect users with human support agents.
- Product tours to guide customers through their first steps.
- Lead qualification through intelligent bots and redirection rules to ensure your site visitors have the best experience.
- Instant FAQs to deliver specific articles that solve up to 29% of customer queries.
Every SaaS company needs a good set of conversion optimization tools, and VWO provides much of that in a single platform. With VWO, you can run A/B tests and measure their impact anywhere. You can import and aggregate all the metrics you care about and measure how they are affected by your experience. VWO FullStack is the company’s software testing and optimization suite that lets you run experiments within your applications without noticeably impacting performance.
VWO’s key features include:
- Optimizing software products and testing variants to improve user experience with VWO Fullstack.
- Product/feature deployment in stages or for different user types.
- Onboarding optimization between SaaS product selection and actual usage.
- Heatmaps to gain insight into user activity on your site and optimize their journey to maximize conversions.
- Funnel optimization to maximize conversion rates and nurture leads throughout the buying process.
- On-page surveys to gather feedback from website visitors to gain insights on key product elements and new changes.
UserVoice is a single, centralized product feedback solution for SaaS companies that gives you everything you need to collect, aggregate, analyze, and track feedback from customers and internal teams. While there are several user feedback software options on the market, there are not as many that cater to SaaS companies looking for a single platform to collect feedback on their software product and website.
Here is what you can expect from UserVoice:
- Collect user feedback about your website and software products.
- Turn feedback from any channel into insights for smarter product, marketing and business decisions.
- Quickly understand your customers’ needs, identify customer demand, and prioritise features and product improvements.
- Compile data into segments based on different user types and your marketing goals to understand what feedback is most important.
- Keep everyone on the same page about product strategy by creating and sharing an always-on roadmap for your company.
In a Nutshell
We live in a digital world where every click, tap, and swipe is tracked and analyzed. That’s why a solid understanding of your product, your audience, your analytics, your competitors, and more is critical to the success of your business. In fact, it can be argued that if you have no idea what’s working and what’s not in your marketing and sales efforts, you have no foundation for your strategy. The good news is that you now know how to create a go-to-market strategy or what to look for. This way, you can develop a strategy for your product that will make your business successful and help you achieve your goals faster and more efficiently.