When you first start marketing your SaaS solution, you may not have much in the way of marketing data, but that doesn’t mean you can ignore data all together. Starting out with a data-driven approach in mind means you’ll be that much more likely to make the right decisions when you do have marketing data. The result is the ability to better allocate marketing resources, and connect strategically with your intended customers.
SaaS founders are no strangers to data. To get off the ground in any real capacity, SaaS founders have to validate their idea to investors and even to start up team members. In this context, most startups will have at least a general idea of Total Addressable Market (TAM), and will have done some testing to determine potential market fit. If proper smoke tests have been completed, you’ll have data on which features are grabbing the most attention, where exactly UI roadblocks might be, and even how much your customers are willing to pay for your SaaS.
Whatever data you’re starting with about your market and your product is a great starting point. The next step is to take this data-focused mindset into the marketing phase.
One of the most important pieces of the SaaS marketing equation is the buyer persona. It gives you a starting point and a focus for every marketing action you’ll undertake. Clearly defining the target persona means you’ll be able to gather data on that persona from public sources. But effective personas are much more in-depth. Add to wide-lens data on demographics and buyer behavior with your own investigation, and set up your marketing infrastructure in a way that can capture and use that data.
At first, you’re making educated guesses on characteristics, and as people engage, you will begin to uncover more detail and enrich your personas.
Your market positioning is what differentiates your company and your solution from others. It’s your hook. The best thing you can do to understand your market positioning is start by understanding the competitive landscape you’d like to enter. Research your competitors, and get as much data as you can on questions like:
Understanding your customer and how your product fits in the market are important goals. In order to capture the data to actually quantify those goals and track your progress, you need an infrastructure. An example is the HubSpot platform, which addresses all parts of the flywheel, with content management, CRM, marketing automation, sales management, and service in one solution.
You don’t necessarily need a top of the line (read: expensive) solution like HubSpot in the very early startup phases, but as you grow, you definitely need a place to capture contact information and behavioral data. You’ll need software and processes to manage things like email communication, social media posting, content planning and SEO optimization, advertising data, traffic data and reporting. Having the right infrastructure set up means you can actually do something with the data you’re after. To quickly get started with capturing data and automatically uncover actionable insights give AllFactors a try.
One of the best ways to think about marketing is the inbound marketing flywheel. Instead of the traditional top-down funnel metaphor, the flywheel is a circular depiction of the marketing-sales-service cycle. When implemented correctly, your inbound marketing flywheel starts to power itself, generating leads and customers as it spins.
Once you have your target persona in mind, have identified your positioning, and are gathering data in a way you can easily understand and use it, you’ve got the inside of the flywheel covered. The outside of the flywheel is where you start to build content, pull in leads, and nurture prospects into purchasing your SaaS and staying on it. The stages of the inbound marketing flywheel are attract, engage, close and delight. The following graphic provides examples of tactics at each stage.
There are two main marketing methodologies that can help you in the Attract phase: inbound and outbound. To truly attract a great flow of leads for your SaaS startup, you’ll need to use - and measure - both. Try out tactics like SEO-focused blogs, pillar content, and social media content to draw in leads organically. Use social media advertising and Google Search ads as paid methods for attracting traffic. Each tactic has its own metrics, and it is crucial to pay attention to those metrics, including traffic sources, social media engagement, and ads results. The bottom line is everything you do to attract new leads can and and should be measured.
Once you have leads in your funnel, the next step in the flywheel is to Engage. Use freemium offers, ebooks and special free resources to provide value to the people you attract into your flywheel with value and build your database with qualified leads. Use metrics like click through rate and conversion rate for your content offers, and track engagement with your app if you offer a free trial or freemium.
Once you’ve attracted and engaged your potential new customer, Close them in the next phase of the flywheel. In this phase, your lead is deciding whether to become a customer, and your job is to provide case studies, personal consultations and other points of proof that help them say “yes.” Track metrics like close rate here, and use a sales performance dashboard to track progress and make decisions on potential changes to your sales process.
In my opinion, the Delight phase is the most fun part of the inbound marketing flywheel, because it’s the phase where SaaS marketers get to be creative in the ways they appreciate and celebrate their customer base. There are so many opportunities to delight your customers, from a great knowledge base to sharing their success stories to providing opportunities for direct feedback in the form of surveys, this is where you build a lasting relationship with customers who can share your solution with their colleagues and friends.
As you build your inbound marketing flywheel, paying attention to each of the four stages, and using the tactics appropriate for each, it’s important to also be aware of top-of-the-funnel, middle-of-the-funnel and bottom-of-the-funnel options. This means offering informational material as well as more direct pitches to use your SaaS, and you can mix and match the traditional ToFu, MoFu and BoFu options with the flywheel stages to truly make sure your bases are covered.
Deciding the right mix of potential SaaS marketing channels can be overwhelming. Many of our startup clients turn to us for advice on Organic search, organic social, paid search, paid social, display ads, app marketplaces, partner programs, review sites, virality and referrals,
Use common metrics to track your results on each channel, and put the most effort and resources towards the ones that work best. Read our recent article to learn more about choosing the right channels for your SaaS marketing program.
Here are some common data points to track:
SaaS marketing is not a black box. Nearly everything we do can be tracked, analyzed and used to make further decisions about marketing resource allocation. It’s important to set out with reasonable goals based on your product-market fit, and your specific buyer personas. Then, ensure you are measuring the results of your efforts with proper marketing structures, like Google Analytics to track traffic sources, specific email tracking from your email platform (ex. MailChimp), or ads results from Facebook Business Manager. The name of the game is test, track, analyze, adjust and try again. The better you use data, the better you can connect with your intended customers, and keep them.
Dr. Maia Morgan Wells is a SaaS marketing expert who leads internal marketing at ClearPivot, and teaches about marketing, entertainment and music at the University of Colorado. She is a proponent of inbound marketing as a natural way to educate and engage potential customers without “selling.” You can reach Maia here.