Marketing your subscription software can be a difficult endeavor. Rather than simply focusing on one-time sales to grow your business, you need to attract and retain long-term subscribers that bring in sustainable revenue over a considerable time frame.
Fortunately, that challenge does not make B2B SaaS SEO or content marketing impossible. With the right strategy, you can still make sure that your target audience hears about your product and its solution to their problems. Building that strategy is complex, but you can get started with these 5 steps.
1) Establish Your Credibility
In the SaaS market space, your strategy should focus around credibility. As industry expert Sujan Patel points out in Forbes, credibility-focused marketing can be difficult to accomplish with a relatively ‘boring’ solution – but is absolutely crucial nonetheless. Your goal is to get commitments from potential subscribers that go beyond a simple, one-time convenience purchase. Getting that commitment is impossible without a certain base level of trust.
Through content marketing, you can accomplish that goal. Provide content that is relevant for your audience and only hints at the possibilities of your software, and you’ll begin to gain an attentive audience. The less promotional and more informational your content, the more you can use it to build credibility and, eventually, thought leadership in your industry.
Ideally, focus on the types of content most optimized for content marketing. Webinars, for example, have a proven track record within the SaaS industry. Spend time informing your potential subscribers about industry news and trends, and they’ll become more likely to trust you enough for a conversion.
2) Focus on Trial Conversions
When marketing your SaaS business, including a trial option is almost always mandatory. The above-mentioned commitment makes a straight conversion difficult, as many members of your audience don’t yet know whether or not your software will actually solve their need.
A trial helps answer that question. You can offer a time-based free trial or a ‘freemium’ version of your software, in which a limited version of your product will remain free. Either way, it’s a perfect way to get your audience hooked, and into your database for more specific promotions.
Speaking of which: don’t assume that once your audience signs up for a free trial, they’ll eventually convert to paying subscribers. In fact, on average, only a small portion of your audience actually takes that direct route. A large part of your marketing strategy, as a result, should revolve around a nurturing strategy that converts trial users to subscribers.
3) Build a Content Database
Software is rarely simple. Because you don’t sell a convenience product that needs little to no introduction, you’ll consistently encounter questions from trial users and subscribers about various features, tools, and capabilities that can help them become better users of the software. Take those questions, and formalize them into a content database.
These types of databases are a common thread among the most successful SaaS solutions available. HubSpot’s Academy, for example, offers a wealth of tutorials and articles that help users better understand the platform. Similarly, MailChimp’s Knowledge Base is a treasure trove of articles and tutorials that address both software features and the greater world of email marketing.
Check out what companies like Jitterbit have done in this arena. Their downloadable content is phenomenal.
Of course, building this database is only half the battle. The other is integrating it into your marketing efforts. For example, you may be able to increase your trial conversions significantly if you can help your users better understand the features of your software. Similarly, giving existing subscribers regular training lessons on advanced features can reduce your churn.
4) Embrace the Right Metrics
Tracking your success should be a core part of any marketing strategy, and the same holds true for SaaS. What is different, however, are the metrics you can (and should) use to accomplish that goal.
Conversion naturally matters. But you’ll track two core conversion rates: from visitor to trial user, and from trial user to paying subscriber. In addition, a number of other metrics can and should be part of your marketing analysis and evaluation:
- Customer Lifetime Value. As the name suggests, this metric tracks the average value a new subscriber has for your business. It’s generally calculated by multiplying your software’s monthly price by the average time (in months) that your subscribers stay with you.
- Customer Acquisition Cost. This metric allows you to estimate how much you spend in marketing and sales for each subscriber you acquire. By calculating it, you can better understand whether a given marketing tactic is successful.
- Churn. In the SaaS space, you need to understand exactly how frequently your subscribers jump off. Measure your monthly and annual churn, and benchmark it against other companies in your industry to see whether you need to improve.
Forbes.com has a more comprehensive explanation of each of these metrics in this article.
Another company that has done a great job of deploying these strategies is A2BTracking. Their content and data analysis is great.
5) Reduce Your Churn
Churn is the enemy of every SaaS marketer. The higher your churn, the less revenue you’ll bring in. Every company should emphasize customer retention; for SaaS providers, it’s a necessity of life.
That’s why your marketing strategy should always include a component that aims to reduce your churn. Engage in regular email marketing, point customers toward your knowledge base, and provide exclusive content for current subscribers.
The more you can do to keep the value of your subscription high, the less likely your current subscribers will be to end their commitment. MissMetrics has a great case study on how to reduce churn on its blog.
If you’re new to SaaS, you may get frustrated with the difference between this type of marketing and other efforts. Don’t be. While your efforts undoubtedly differ from other industry, you still have a reliable pathway to success. By focusing on the above steps, you can help your SaaS solution both gain and retain subscribers on a sustainable level, accelerating business growth in the process.