The Truth About SaaS Marketing

Posted by LO on July 15, 2015

The Truth About Marketing your SaaS Startup

There are a lot of misconceptions about marketing SaaS startups. You think it will be easy-peasy. You've got a great product and there is no reason that users wouldn't want to line up in anticipation of your beautiful piece of software. 

Well, I got news for you, bub. They won't be lining up around the virtual block. In fact, there is a good chance that they haven't heard of you -- even if they do really need your software.

Marketing your SaaS startup isn't just about expediting your submission on BetaList, or offering a free trial. There is work to be done, and re-done. Strategies to be executed, and revised, and then executed again. 

Don't expect overnight success

If you read enough tech blogs, you may be under the impression that there are tons of overnight successes in the SaaS world. The reality is not so. Even the ones that blow up overnight have put months or years of hard work, late nights and had the right team surrounding them to help propel the product forward into the spotlight. 

Facebook didn't break even until 3 years after the service launched. And even after breaking even, Mark Zuckerberg planned to spend even more money to bring more users, and advertisers, to the social networking site.

And you'll find that same theme for many startups, SaaS and otherwise.  

It's probably a little insulting to hear that your startup is an "overnight success". Especially when that founder has most likely poured their blood, sweat, tears, and countless hours of lost sleep into a company. Don't feel discouraged if you're just a few months into it and you still haven't broke even, or you're still struggling to get another hundred users. Overnight success is a myth. Just get it out of your head. Because a lack of overnight success does not equal failure, but if you dwell on it, you may start to believe that you have failed.

Marketing automation =/= set it and forget it

Yes, marketing automation will absolutely make your life easier, but it is in no way a "set it and forget it" type of tool. Marketing needs constant tweaking, altering and checking in. There are a ton of tools that will help make your marketing activities easier to complete and take less time, and there are tons of posts out there that will help you decide which tools to use (we love HubSpot, since it's one of the few "all-in-ones" out there that does everything you need it to very well).

However, you have to keep in mind that automating your marketing activities can never, and will never be a set it and forget it situation.

And here's why: as your company grows and morphs from a startup to a viable company with paying customers, you'll notice that your customers needs will change. As their needs change and morph with your company, you're going to want to make sure that your messaging reflects that. As you engage in more online marketing activities, you will notice that some things work really well, and others just do not, you'll want to change your messaging to reflect that. 

And while setting things on auto pilot so you can enjoy a long weekend away with your family, is OK, you never ever want all of your social posts and other digital marketing activities to run on auto all the time. It will eventually come across as disingenuous, and you'll lose followers, fans, and traffic.

You really do need a blog

I know, I know. You're rolling your eyes. You're saying to yourself, "Really? A blog? Do I have to? I'm already doing x,y, AND z." 

Yes, really. You need to blog. I don't care what you're doing with x, y, and z. 

Here's why a blog is important. 

  1. It's a great tool for SEO. Google loves fresh, new content. So adding new website pages, with real, informative content is essential. A blog makes that easy.
  2. It's a great resource for your customers. Do you find yourself answering the same question for your customers? Write a blog post about it.
  3. It's a great introduction to potential customers. Your blog could very well be the first thing new visitors to your site may see. Make it count. Give them something to think about. Something to learn from.

Blogs help to drive a ton of well-targeted traffic. Take for example this blog post we wrote a couple of months ago about the differences between IFTTT and Zapier. It's driven about 300-500 hits per month all through organic search. And that's just one blog post. 

Blog posts also give you an opportunity to convert those new eyes into leads through calls to action, and blog subscriptions. Like I said above, they are a great introduction to your brand for new visitors. 

Freemium is not for everyone

For some products and services, freemium goes a long way in onboarding new customers. It takes the fear of spending money on something that may not work for their business. 

However for some products and services, it just doesn't make sense. You could end up turning customers away with a "freemium account" because you can't offer the level of service required to deploy, and use your software. A free trial, and/or product demo is a much better course for larger, enterprise-level software and service. 

HubSpot has a great article about why you lose customers after a free trial, and I strongly suggest you read it. 

It's not cheap.

Marketing your SaaS requires people. People to write blog posts. People to craft compelling social media copy. People to analyze data. People to manage your social accounts. 

And people are expensive. 

Especially the right people. 

Paid advertisements and placements aren't incredibly expensive. Social media is "free". Your marketing website hosting fees are minimal. It's the team that costs the most. Your marketing team doesn't necessarily have to be in-house, outsourcing is probably cheaper. But you are still going to pay a pretty penny to market your software. It is one of those things that you get what you put into it. 

Conclusion

Here's the takeaway, don't be discouraged by your lack of perceived success up front. Keep at it. Don't be afraid to try new things in your marketing efforts. Even if something doesn't work, you gleaned some valuable information (what doesn't work).

Keep revisiting, and refining your marketing activities until you find something that truly does work and then refine some more. Don't be surprised by large retainer fees or salary costs for your marketing team -- they are the ones that will double or triple or more your investment in marketing. 

Want to make a go of flying solo with digital marketing? Sign up for our free 5-week introduction to inbound marketing course today.  

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