Introduction to SaaS Marketing
SaaS (or software-as-a-service) has revolutionized many areas of our world, both as business people and consumers. Many of us remember the early days of software – you or your company’s IT guy would purchase a software license, often in the form of a CD (remember those?), download the software locally to your desktop PC (remember those, too?), double-click a little icon on your machine and voila! Software.
But the flexibility, security, and real-time accessibility of SaaS products when compared to the now-antiquated on-premise software solutions of yesteryear means SaaS is an attractive and lucrative business model for leaders all over the world. The market is continuously growing, improving and evolving: in fact, the SaaS market is expected to reach nearly $400 billion in sales by the end of 2022. A growing and evolving industry means growing and evolving marketing strategies. As growth marketing leaders, understanding the nuances of SaaS marketing strategies are a must in 2022.
The Unique Challenges of Marketing a SaaS Product
With such a drastic change to how people use software comes a similarly drastic change to how people purchase SaaS products. Gone are the days of driving users into a retail location or big box store to pick up their new software products off a shelf. That behavior has been replaced with mobile-optimized online demos, user-generated content, free trials, SMS communications, and promotions designed specifically to reduce churn rates. SaaS marketers are pulling out all the stops in 2022 to fill the tops of funnels, drive conversions, keep users engaged, and increase LTV. It’s a whole new world, and marketers must adjust or risk being left behind.
The NoGood squad of performance marketing experts has pulled together a list of the top SaaS marketing strategies driving growth in 2022. A mix of B2B and consumer, with many spanning industries and markets, the trends listed below are ones every SaaS marketer should at minimum be aware of, if not actively pursuing and prioritizing, in the year to come.
Strategy 1: Building User-Focused Communities
SaaS users are often DIYers. This is true when they’re researching software solutions and deciding on a SaaS product in the first place, and it usually remains true after they’ve made a decision and converted into a SaaS customer. A lot of today’s SaaS users want online courses, YouTube videos, or concise FAQs to help them solve problems on their own, without interacting with a sales person or customer support rep. Today’s sophisticated SaaS product brands recognize and embrace this entrepreneurial trait in their customer base, and marketers are leaning into it by supporting and empowering the development of online communities around their product.
Sometimes these communities are for product users only; for example, HubSpot, a B2B SaaS leader in marketing automation and inbound marketing, has created an entire program around HubSpot User Groups, or HUGS. HubSpot users can find a local HUG chapter using the HubSpot website, and if a local group doesn’t already exist, HubSpot provides clear instructions on how an individual can start one.
Other times, these online communities are not product-specific but instead, they’re based on a market or industry niche. Subbly, a subscription commerce platform for online merchants, owns and moderates a bustling Facebook group for subscription box entrepreneurs. Many of the Facebook group members are not Subbly users at all; they are in the group to bounce ideas off other subscription box merchants, get direct feedback from their peers, and learn what’s working in the subscription box world in other industries. What this means for Subbly is that their online community is as much an acquisition vehicle as it is a retention or growth loop channel for the business, and they likely convert new SaaS customers from the closely-moderated group every single day.
The fact is, the users of your SaaS product are likely to congregate online somewhere to talk about using your software. You can either be a part of that conversation and help drive the narrative, maintain some control over your brand, and keep tabs on customer satisfaction, or you can … be absent. NoGood predicts that most savvy SaaS marketers in 2022 will opt for the former, and we encourage you to consider doing the same.
Strategy 2: Diversifying Ad Channels
If you’re a growth marketer reading this blog post, you’ve almost certainly been impacted by the iOS 14 update and its shockwaves sent rippling across the advertising industry. Diversifying ad channels, or the oft-referred to “marketing mix,” is not a new concept — but diversification is arguably more important than it’s ever been in 2022, especially for SaaS marketers who rely on closed-loop reporting to understand engagement and customer value metrics far beyond trials and first conversions. With increasingly difficult-to-close attribution data gaps and consumer privacy concerns taking center stage in 2022, marketers simply cannot risk putting all their eggs in one advertising channel basket.
Below, NoGood’s ad experts have compiled a few ad channels to consider adding to your marketing mix in 2022:
- TikTok. Yes, everything’s coming up TikTok, but it’s not a silly trend you want to ignore in 2022. SaaS brands are leveraging TikTok video content to offer tips and tricks to their product users, raise awareness of their brand in a place they know their prospects hang out, or give future employees an authentic view of their company culture from behind the scenes. Take a look at Adobe’s TikTok content for some inspiration on how your brand can take advantage of TikTok’s growing user base and authentically join the conversation – but be careful not to accidentally waste your whole day falling down a TikTok rabbit hole!
- Bing. Wait, did you say Bing? Yes, I said Bing! Bing isn’t right for every SaaS brand, but consider your audience. If you’re marketing a B2B product, a healthcare product, or a SaaS product within any other highly regulated industry, Bing might be a good channel for your team to test. Bing is still the go-to search engine for business users (consider the types of businesses that would restrict employees from downloading Chrome on their work laptops, for example) and many desktop users (think of heavy research tasks or number crunching tasks an individual wouldn’t want to do on their phone or laptop, like academia, accounting or legal careers). If your user base matches any of those descriptions, don’t overlook Bing advertising!
- Podcast ads: When you’ve damn near perfected the high-intent ad channels like PPC and Facebook, and you’ve optimized the bottom of your funnel within an inch of its life, it’s time to consider putting more effort and ad spend behind awareness channels. Be the reason your market’s size increases. Own your category. Fill the top of your funnel. One often overlooked way to do this is via podcast ads. According to one report by Edison Research, 32% of Americans listen to at least 1 podcast on a monthly basis. Avid podcast listeners spend an average of 6 hours and 37 minutes listening to podcasts every week. That’s a lot of time you can tap into as a marketer to get your target audience’s attention.
Strategy 3: Growth Loops, Growth Loops, Growth Loops
What is a growth loop? Also called an acquisition loop, a growth loop is a method by which SaaS brands grow their user base by leveraging their existing customers to generate more. Imagine your average CAC across channels is $10, but you have no existing growth loops. This means your company pays $10 for every single new customer, and no matter how much you optimize your ad channels, the CAC stays pretty consistent.
Instead of being stuck paying $10 for every new customer, growth loops give marketers and product owners a way to generate new customers without paying for each one. With this model, maybe you continue paying $10 for a new customer, but that new customer then goes out and finds you 3 additional new customers. Now you’ve spent $10 for 4 customers, meaning your true CAC is $2.50. Further, you now have 4 customers instead of just 1. If your growth loops work right, each will go out and find 3 more customers each, and those 12 will each go find 3 more, etc., resulting not in simple growth but in powerful compounding growth.
It’s simple enough to understand math. But how are SaaS marketers intentionally creating and benefiting from growth loops in 2022? How can SaaS marketers make it easy for existing customers to drive growth on our behalf? Here are the trends we’re seeing from NoGood’s SaaS customer base:
- Referrals: Deepak Singh, product leader at Amazon Web Services, describes referrals as “the holy grail of growth.” And he’s right. If you don’t know where to start with your SaaS product’s growth loop strategy, building out a referral program would be a safe first bet. Consider what your unique user base would be incentivized by. Is it free swag? A special user status within your product? Cold, hard cash? Make sure your incentive fits your brand voice, and never overlook the power of testing and learning. You can almost always pivot if something isn’t working as well as you hypothesized it would.
- User-Generated Content: User-generated content isn’t just good for social proof testimonials on your website. Consider Peloton and how they’ve tapped into their user base to share content on other social media platforms after a ride. You can’t watch Instagram stories without seeing the telltale Peloton workout screen flash before your eyes. This isn’t accidental – this is Peloton’s way of tapping into their user base to spread the word and get more workout junkies to
join the cultsubscribe to Peloton.
- Gamification: It’s almost impossible to talk about gamification without mentioning Duolingo. A consumer app designed to help people learn a language, the gamification within the product is truly magical. “They gamify their product using many different mechanisms traditionally seen in video games: experience points, streaks, collectibles, and leaderboards,” writes Nalin Bhardwaj, software engineer at Lunchclub. But the growth loop itself actually comes in a different format for Duolingo: word of mouth.
Explains Bhardwaj, “Learning a language is an intrinsically social activity. The only way to get good at communicating in a new language is to… well, communicate with others using it. It silently forces this natural growth loop: You have to use your Duolingo education with friends/family outside the app, and that’s perhaps the best kind of word-of-mouth plug any product could ever hope to generate.”
Strategy 4: Double Up on Knowledge Bases as SEO Engines
If you are a SaaS marketer, you already know that software users are a resourceful bunch. They often expect brands to provide online knowledge bases, free video courses, or even fully functioning universities to hone their skills using your software product.
Whether you are leveraging the content as an SEO growth vehicle or not, this material is inherently well-suited for search. This material should, quite literally, answer the questions your customers or prospective users are asking. What are your customer service reps asked most often, and what are their responses? What does your sales team give out to prospective B2B users as sales sheets or collateral? What is the most common reason for current churn, and how can you combat it? The answers to these questions are a goldmine for any SaaS marketing team to begin developing an online knowledge base to drive SEO growth.
If you are looking for the gold standard as inspiration, Shopify does this exceptionally well. Marketers at Shopify understand that their prospective user base – online merchants and business owners – is not just looking for a SaaS product. They’re researching all sorts of business and marketing topics, constantly seeking advice from their peers or industry experts. From drop-shipping best practices to how to develop a product roadmap, Shopify is answering these questions expertly with content packaged up, architected and laid out on their website ready to capture organic traffic from any merchant looking for answers.
Strategy 5: Shifting Closer & Closer to True Product-Led Growth
Product-led growth (PLG) is often cited as the inverse of sales-led growth. PLG is a business model that gives customers the keys to the product as the business’s primary growth engine. The problem with product-led growth within some organizations is that it’s not a strategy that can be fully successful unless there is complete alignment and transparent collaboration between marketing, sales and product teams. When a SaaS company silos these departments, product-led growth – true product-led growth — is impossible.
But SaaS marketing leaders can still make progress on the PLG front, even without total alignment from other key areas of the business. Consider product-led growth strategies that your marketing team can execute on your own, or pair up with select members of the product or sales teams to get the ball rolling:
- Instead of promoting gated white papers to generate leads and handing them off to the sales team, consider offering a free trial to new customers
- Shift your efforts between generating net new leads and mining your own customer base for upsell and cross-sell opportunities
- Publish a changelog within your blog to announce new product features, and promote popular features in your ad campaigns, email announcements, and organic social channels
- Show off the product; use videos of the product in-use, photos of the interface, and even self-guided demos on your website or YouTube to give prospective users even more control of their first product experience
Summarizing SaaS Marketing Strategies for 2022
SaaS marketing leaders in 2022 are at the forefront of growth marketing, overcoming challenges that simply don’t affect marketing leaders in other industries quite the same way. It takes a sophisticated, thorough and mature leader to put all the pieces of your SaaS marketing strategies together: the constantly changing product, seemingly never-ending martech integration hiccups, hyper-niche hard-to-reach audiences, a product that is literally intangible… you get the idea.
But in spite of the inherent challenges of SaaS marketing, growth leaders in 2022 are making it work. By tapping into existing customers for their most powerful growth opportunities, repurposing product documentation as SEO hubs, and using the product itself as the #1 marketing tool in our arsenal, SaaS marketers in 2022 have matured right alongside the SaaS market itself.
Looking for a growth partner to help scale your SaaS marketing strategies? See what NoGood offers businesses like yours by reviewing our services, or drop us a note. To see how we’ve helped another SaaS company like yours unlock growth, watch the Invisibly case study video below.