(2022) Creating an Actionable SaaS Marketing Plan

Denis Shatalin
Founder of Saas Camp
Feel like you have the perfect product, but you just can’t find the users? A SaaS marketing plan could be your missing ingredient. According to Statista, there are around 17,000 SaaS companies in the US alone. That’s a lot of noise to cut through, so you’d better be sure you know who you’re targeting and how to make them listen.

As a founder coach, I’ve worked with more than 50 early-stage SaaS founders through my SaaS camp, and many of their problems came down to a lack of strategy when putting their products out there.

I’ll run through everything you need to know to make a marketing plan for SaaS companies so you don’t fall into the same trips.

What is SaaS marketing?

You know what SaaS is, and (I hope) you know what marketing is too. But can you distinguish between traditional and SaaS marketing?

Most traditional marketing focuses on edging a customer toward making a one-off purchase, while SaaS companies have to look beyond that point. You need to build long-term relationships with your customers to avoid churn bring in recurring revenue. These mean keeping your customers engaged over time.

Then there are the challenges that come with marketing something intangible in a competitive environment.

The different sides to SaaS marketing

All SaaS marketing aims to nurture long-term relationships, but there’s more than one way to go about it.

SEO

Most people head straight to Google whenever they want to know or buy something, and SEO maximizes the chances of them finding your content during their search.

The theory is simple enough:
  • Figure out which keywords people are searching for (you can use software like Ahrefs or Semrush)
  • Optimize your posts for these keywords (again, software helps)
  • Prevent people from clicking away by making your content visually appealing and engaging

Video editing software firm VEED went from 0 to more than 500,000 monthly website visitors by creating optimized landing pages and blog posts and using other elements of SEO. There’s no reason you can’t do the same.
Social media

Social media is another go-to for every SaaS marketing plan. The key is not to post for the sake of posting — instead, post content your audience will find useful (or at least entertaining).

For inspiration, look at MailChimp’s Twitter account. It’s humorous, the content is relevant to the digital world, and the team creates its own visuals. Tick, tick, and tick.
Source: https://twitter.com/Mailchimp/status/1575213813758148608?cxt=HHwWgIC-5cSnpNwrAAAA

Email marketing

Despite what some think, email very much remains an effective tool for most demographics. The very act of subscribing to your newsletter also means that these people actively want to see content from you. And there’s no algorithmic curation going on, so once your email lands in their inbox, it stays there. Some people might go weeks without logging onto Twitter, but we’re all slaves to our inbox.

You can use emails for any of the following content:
  • Feature announcements
  • New blog content
  • Company news
  • Interactive elements like surveys
  • Promotions
  • Checking in with prospects

Affiliate marketing

Affiliate marketing (offering a reward to someone who signs up using a link) is the perfect way to grow as fast as possible. Dropbox is the OG example of how an SaaS company can use this strategy.

By offering its customers 500MB of storage for referring a friend — plus 500MB to the friend they referred — the cloud storage company experienced 3900% user growth in fifteen months.
Demos and signups

Finally, demos are a great way to give people a taste of what you offer and convert them into long-term customers. You can also use demos as a funnel to get people onto your email list.

Why is having a SaaS marketing plan important?

Well, effective SaaS product marketing requires a plan. Instead of chucking your money at an idea and hoping for the best, you need a strategy. Above all, this means thinking about who your audience is and what problem you’re solving for them.

When you know this, you’ll have the best chance of creating convincing people that your product will solve all their problems. Otherwise, you’ll be fumbling around in the dark and burning money.

Creating your SaaS marketing plan

Now we’ve run through the basics, it’s time to get actionable. How can you create your own SaaS marketing plan?

All it takes is six simple steps.

1. Define essential details

Before you do anything else, you need to define the essential parameters of your marketing plan.

That means:
  • Objectives. Objectives and key results (OKRs) take a general goal and give it a measurable metric. For instance, growing your monthly sign-ups by 50%.
  • KPIs. Some top SaaS analytics to consider include monthly recurring revenue (MRR), average revenue per user (ARPU), and customer acquisition cost (CAC).
  • Timeline. What time frame are you working within for each goal?
  • Tools to measure data. You need to track your KPIs to know if you’re meeting your goals. Are you using Stripe, Google Analytics, Search Console, Mailchimp and Hootsuite? Any other tools also suffice.
  • Branding. What is your position within the market, who are you trying to target, and how should you communicate with them? Also, think about how you can boost your brand through social proof, including testimonials and case studies on your website and reviews on review sites (like Trustpilot).

2. Competition research

Some founders like to proudly say that they don’t have competitors, but this is almost never true. You might offer something extremely specific, such as software that creates humorous deep fake videos with celebrities for marketing purposes.

But you’re ultimately still competing with every other firm with software that creates videos for marketing purposes — and there’s plenty of them around.

As we’ve touched on already, the SaaS market is a crowded space. While this makes it tough to stand out, it can give you a leg-up in thinking up your strategy. You can see where your competitors are achieving success and where they’re investing the most effort. Could you go in the same direction?

For instance, SimilarWeb lets you see which keywords your competitors are ranking for.
3. Defining primary and secondary personas

A user persona outlines your typical customer. This helps you get into their head and figure out how to market to them.

You may consider:
  • Demographics — location, age, gender, job
  • Activities in their typical day
  • Their interests and opinions
  • Their biggest problems

I recommend thinking about both primary and secondary personas. The former are your core target audience, while the secondary personas are other people who may find your business interesting.

You should focus the bulk of your strategy on the primary personas.

4. Defining your channels

Once you know who your personas are, the next thing you need to know is how to reach them. College students, CEOS, and pensioners aren’t using the internet in the same way. 84% of American teenagers use Instagram, while just 2% use LinkedIn.

Ideally, you’ll have past data you can refer to (such as which social media channels got you the most engagement). But if not, you can research the preferred platform(s) of your personas or look at what your competitors are doing.

5. Work on your workflows that drive signups

Ultimately, your main goal is to drive your sign ups so you can increase revenue and your customer base. What workflows are you putting in place to make that possible?

Here are a few aspects to pay attention to:
  • Tools. What software are you using to collect vital data? For instance, Google Analytics will show you which keywords drive traffic and where the traffic comes from.
  • Social proof. People are social animals, and they’re more likely to do something if they can see their peers are already doing it. Ask your clients for testimonials, or offer your service for free in return for an honest review. Affilimate does a great job highlighting its customers.
  • Demos and free trials. These are a must for demonstrating your value — but as you’ll soon see, they’re most effective when combined with an onboarding process.
  • Onboarding. The Ghost team analyzed what customers did after signing up, and found they were 1,000% more likely to sign up if they used a custom theme. Make sure your customers really understand your product.
  • Retention. It’s cheaper to make your current customers stick around than to constantly bring on new clients. Keep your customers engaged through continuous tips, training, and customer support.
  • Churn. Track how many customers are canceling their plan with you. Do your best to find out why they left, and offer incentives to get them back (such as discounts).

6. Benchmark and improve on plan

You can’t expect to get things perfect the first time around — a good plan should make room for continuous improvement. Track your KPIs and OKRs as you go, and if you find that you’re far from where you want to be, it might be time to mix things up.

Are you targeting the wrong people? Focusing on the wrong platforms? Or maybe you’re targeting the right people on the right platforms, but your branding is off, and you just can’t keep them interested.

If you’re not sure what is letting you down, you may want to consider beginning a business mentor on board.

Ready for your SaaS marketing plan?

Creating an SaaS marketing plan isn’t an overnight job. It requires careful thought about who your customers are and how you can reach them. Then, you need to use data to continually tweak your ideas.

If you find the prospect of this overwhelming, you may find it useful to work with a founder coach to get you where you need to be, faster. My SaaS acceleration program is here to help you grow fast, and I’ll even work with you for free until you triple your investment if you don’t get the results you want. Ready to find out more?
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✋ Hey, it's Denis! Thanks for reading :) Want help with your startup or to have a chat? Just reach out to me on Twitter, Email or LinkedIn.