All posts by Emma Gallimore

A professional freelance writer since 2008, Emma Gallimore works with businesses and individuals to help them communicate with the world and meet their professional goals. She is always looking for new writing challenges.

SaaS Branding

5 Steps to Content Marketing Success for SaaS Companies

Content marketing helps you cut through the noise on the internet by providing relevant and useful information to your clients and to the public at large. It’s a great way to build relationships with your customers. Done right, it will set your company up as an expert in the field, meaning customers will come to you when they need a software solution.

A successful content marketing campaign takes planning and effort, but the results can be well worth the investment. This simple five-step guide will put your SaaS business on the path to content marketing success.

Step 1: Research

step 1. research

Don’t just crank out content and throw it online. Before you write a single word, you should take some time to learn about your industry and identify your audience. The better you know what information is already out there and who might be looking for information in your subject area, the better able you will be to create relevant content.

The good news is you don’t have to start from scratch. If you’ve already developed your software and

are ready to market it, you probably have a lot of the information you need. You already know who your ideal customer is, what types of problems they are trying to solve, and what they struggle with in the day to day running of their lives and businesses.

If you don’t already have the answers to these questions, go out and find them before you try to write.

Step 2: Develop a Strategy

Step 2: Develop a Strategy

Now that you know who you’re talking to, it’s time to figure out how you’re going to reach them. First, define your goals. Do you want to raise brand awareness, build an email list, upsell customers?

Next, narrow down your target audience. Who specifically are you trying to educate and inform? Is it the customer who needs a little help with technology, the customer focused on dramatically growing her client list, or the potential customer who doesn’t yet realize they have a problem that you can solve?

You might identify more than one type of customer, and that’s okay. Just make sure that each piece of content or each series focuses on one of those types.

Step 3: Work Out the Details

Step 3: Work Out the Details

It’s time to decide how you will structure your content. Will you create written blogs or videos, white papers or eBooks? You can include any of these (plus a lot more) in your content marketing strategy. Which ones you choose depends on your audience, your goals, and the money and equipment you have available.

Finally, develop a publication schedule. Online users are more likely to trust you if you reliably post your content. Just like on social media, posting too often can overwhelm users, but if you post rarely or sporadically, users may just forget you exist. So make a schedule and stick to it.

Step 4: Create Content

Step 4: Create Content

Now that you have a plan, you can create your content. This may be harder than it sounds. The blank page is a great intimidator.

Don’t be afraid to ask for help. There are writers and marketing specialists out there who can create content for you if writing is not your strong point. Hiring a professional videographer can make a big difference in the quality of your videos.

If you’d rather do it yourself, but these skills aren’t in your wheelhouse, think about taking a class to hone your skills.

Keep in mind that content should be relevant to the consumer but also advance your strategy. If it doesn’t do both of these things, you probably shouldn’t be spending time on it.

Step 5: Post and Share

Step 5: Post and Share

Once you’ve created your content, it’s time to put it online. Ideally, you’re publishing on your own turf –

that means publishing on a web domain you own, so you’re not at the mercy of the newsfeed algorithms on social media sites.

Even though you’re hosting your content on your website, you should use social media to direct users to your site. Put teasers to new blog posts on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. Pin your Infographic on Pinterest. Share your latest video on your YouTube channel.

You may even create advertising for your content marketing collateral. Many companies market their eBooks and white papers on Facebook or other sites.

Bonus Step: Working through these four steps will get you started, but a truly robust content marketing strategy needs continuous adjustment. Monitor the performance of each post to find out what’s working and what isn’t. If you had planned a video series but your users are responding better to your blog posts, ditch the video and keep blogging.

SaaS Branding

Content Marketing Explained: A Guide for SaaS Businesses

You’ve probably heard of content marketing. It’s one of the many buzz words that saturate the marketing world today. You may even know that content marketing involves creating and curating content to help your business attract and retain customers.

What you may not understand is how content marketing can work for your SaaS and how to incorporate it into your marketing strategy. This guide will give you a basic introduction to what content marketing is, why you need it, and how it works.

What is Content Marketing?

What is Content Marketing?

Content marketing can include blogs, videos, white papers, eBooks, lists, infographics, presentations and a lot more. The form your marketing takes should be based on the type of content that is most likely to appeal to customers.

The key is to provide relevant, useful information. Your content should engage, inform, and inspire your customers and potential customers. Ultimately it’s about building a relationship with the user by convincing them that you understand your industry and have the expertise to help them succeed. If you do this right, customers should look to you as a subject matter expert.

Why Should I Use Content Marketing?

Why Should I Use Content Marketing?

Advertising is everywhere. It’s splashed across the pages of your favorite magazine, printed on billboards, and inserted into your Facebook or Instagram feed. Advertising has reached such a saturation point that it has become white noise. Consumers are adept at tuning it out.

This disengagement can be a real hurdle for SaaS companies who are trying to reach potential customers. Advertising that’s quirky, off-the-wall, or controversial can sometimes break through the noise. That type of advertising doesn’t work for all companies, however. If your SaaS provides payroll services or CRM software, being known as the company with the bizarre advertising might work against you. You need to be seen as professional, competent, and well-prepared to handle the sensitive data that your clients need to run their businesses.

So what’s an SaaS company to do? That’s where content marketing comes in.

Who Needs Content Marketing?

Who Needs Content Marketing?

Instead of pushing and shoving for attention on the sidebar of a blog, you can stand up in front of customers who actually seek you out to hear what you have to say. Instead of pitching a product or service, you’re educating potential customers. Do this well, and customers will place their trust in you. When they need something in your industry, they’ll come to you.

SaaS companies like HubSpot, DocuSign, and Salesforce are making content marketing work for them, and you can too.

Where Does Content Marketing Fit In?

Content marketing should be part of a wider marketing strategy. DocuSign doesn’t just have a resource center where they post whitepapers, webinars and case studies, they also have Google Ads, a FaceBook page, and even print advertising in the Wall Street Journal.

Your content should be fully integrated with your other marketing. It should use the same tone and carry similar messages. Ideally, it should be collected in one location and you should own that space. That means you should not be posting your content exclusively on Facebook, Google or some other branded site. You should have your own blog or website where your content can appear and where you control how people see it.

When Should I Start Content Marketing?

You can add content marketing to an established marketing strategy or you can integrate it from the very beginning of your marketing and branding efforts. Whenever you start, have a clear plan for what you want your content to accomplish and how you’ll go about achieving that.

Content marketing without an established strategy and goals is likely to be ineffective and may even hurt your marketing campaign. Customers may be confused by content that doesn’t align with the brand persona you’re trying to establish. They may even begin to feel like your company can’t be trusted.

How do I Implement Content Marketing

How do I Implement Content Marketing

The first step to a successful content marketing campaign is research. Learn who your customers are, what problems they are trying to solve, and what types of content are likely to engage them. Fortunately, much of this information can be found in your exiting marketing research.

Once you know your customers you’re ready to develop a strategy. What content is your company able to (or able to pay others to) create? Where will you post it? How does it fit into your existing marketing strategy.

Finally, you’re ready to create and post your content. Remember to share it on social media, on your website, and wherever else you can.

SaaS Branding

Getting to Know Your Customers – A Guide for Marketing SaaS

Before you create a marketing plan for your SaaS you need to develop a clear idea of who your customers are, what their goals are, and what they need to reach those goals. You may believe that the ideal audience for your product is basically everyone, but you’re doing your business a disservice if you don’t create targeted marketing aimed at the customers most likely to benefit from your software.

A strong marketing campaign enables potential clients to clearly envision how the product and service will help them reach their goals. The most successful marketing campaigns feel as though they are aimed not at a demographic but at each individual within that group.

Before you can create such effective marketing, you need to know who you are selling to. This guide will help you identify your ideal client.

1. Define the Problem

Define the Problem

The search for the ideal client starts close to home. You first have to look at your product and identify the problem that you are solving. Clients buy your product because they have a problem and your product is a solution. The problem may be: I need to make sure my company is compliant with the latest payroll tax regulations, or it may be: I need to communicate with 10,000 subscribers on my email list about the events in my gallery.

If this seems like a high level concept, try breaking it down by listing all the features your software has. What does the software actually do? Each of these features solves a problem by performing a task more efficiently or by automating parts of the process.

2. Identify Broad Categories

Identify Broad Categories

Make a list of the people or businesses who might have this problem. Think broadly. You’ll get to specifics in the next step. List industries or service areas. Think about business size. Are you targeting small businesses, enterprise clients, individuals?

Consider the revenue of your potential customers. If you’re offering a high end product with a high end price tag, you’re going to need a customer with a lot of revenue to be able to afford your software.

3. Narrow Your Focus

Narrow Your Focus

Now you can get specific. Look at those broad categories and think about individuals within those categories who might benefit from your product. Are you aiming at the sales representative or the CEO? How educated is your customer? What kind of technical skills does the customer have? How old is this person?

Does your customer employ people? How many? Are they working on a team? How big is the team? What is the geographic scope of the business?

What are the factors that potential client use to make decisions? Are they focused more on the bottom line or on efficiency? Do they need to get approval from another person or a board of directors to buy your product?

Once you’ve explored all of these questions you should have a clear idea of who your ideal customer is. This could be an individual or an organization as long as it is specific and focused.

4. Aim Your Marketing

Aim Your Marketing

Now that you have your ideal customer profile you can create marketing plans aimed at that specific customer. This will require a little more research from you. Figure out where customers like this congregate online. Are they on LinkedIn or Twitter? Are they spending most of their time on industry-specific sites? If you have existing customers that fit your profile, you can ask them these questions. If not, there’s a wealth of statistical information available online from companies like Kissmetrics.

Once you figure out where your ideal customer hangs out, you can look at how your customer communicates. What buzzwords does he use? What graphics appeal to her? Create your advertising with this in mind.

By maintaining this close focus on your ideal customer, you’ll increase the chances that your advertising reaches people who are ready and willing to buy your product. Of course, other people will see your ads as well, and that’s fine. Even customers who don’t fit your profile can be great customers.

SaaS Branding

5 Essential Elements of an Effective SaaS Website

Customers use your website to learn about your company, decide whether your SaaS can help them, interact with your support team, and buy your product. An effective website makes it easy, and maybe even fun, for customers to do these things.

There’s a lot of room for customization of your website, but there are also five essential elements you must have to ensure that your website is effective.

1. Clear Statement of Purpose

Visitors to your website should be able to tell at a glance who you are and what you’re selling. 17 hats, the organizational app for entrepreneurs, does a great job of this.

Clear Statement of Purpose

The first thing you see on their site is a tagline “say goodbye to chaos and hello to organization!” They describe themselves as “the all-in-one business system for entrepreneurs.” In less than 30 seconds you know who their product is for and broadly what it does. They even include a handy infographic, for people who would rather just look at the pictures.

For another great example, look at Salesforce.com. Their home page includes a straightforward headline asking the question “What is Salesforce?” followed by a two sentence answer. The menu to the left is headlined “Solutions For” with entries titled “Small Business” and “Industries.”

Again, a quick glance at the home page lets customers know what the product is and whether its designed for them.

2. Trust Building Elements

Trust Building Elements

People buy from companies they trust. Potential customers will use cues on your website to determine whether you’re trustworthy. These cues can include testimonials from happy customers, certifications from the Better Business Bureau, or security badges.

Let’s look again at SalesForce. The center of their homescreen namedrops a satisfied client who happens to also be a leader in their industry. The hope is that users will think: If this product works for that well known company, it will probably work for mine.

Intuit actually goes so far as to provide a “security” tab on their site, where they explain how their company protects your data. They also include security badges from Norton and Truste.

3. Compelling Call to Action

Compelling Call to Action

A call to action tells users what they should do next. Do you want them to sign up for a free trial? Subscribe to your software? Contact you for more information? Getting them to your site is only half the battle. You have to convince them to take action once they get there.

Salesforce, 17hats, and almost every other SaaS website out there, uses call to action buttons. The button is prominently placed on the home page. They tend to be in bright colors, like orange or lime green, that stand out from the rest of the page.

Your action button can say almost anything from “try it now” to “start for free,” as long as the customer understands that clicking the button will enable them to further explore the software.

4. Contact Information

Contact Information

Responsive customer service is a key factor in the SaaS model. In order for customers to feel confident that you will provide service and support to meet their needs, they have to know how to contact you.

At minimum, you should provide an email address. You might also include live chat options, a phone number, or an online forum where customers can post their questions.

Whatever contact information you provide, make sure that it is easy to find on your page. Don’t bury it three levels deep in a menu. Intuit includes a support tab as one of the four tabs on their home page. Salesforce lists an 800 number in the header of their home page, accompanied by a contact link that opens a email contact form.

5. Easy Payment Processing

Easy Payment Processing

Nothing is more annoying than wanting to buy a product and not being able to do so. Make sure that the process for purchasing your product is clear. Your action buttons can help here, by enticing customers to start your free trial or contact your sales team.

If you have a pricing page, you can include “sign up” or “buy now” buttons for each service level. MailChimp does a good job of this. Most of their site asks customers to sign up for their free version, but if you click through to the pricing page, you find “sign up now” buttons on the premium packages.

SaaS Branding

3 Myths About Your Customers That are Crippling Your Marketing Strategy

Marketing a SaaS presents unique challenges. With all the virtual noise out there, it’s not enough to simply present your product to the public. You have to get your advertising in front of the people who are likely to buy your software. Once they’ve bought the product, you have to maintain a relationship with them.

Before you can find those people and identify the places where advertising will be most effective, you have to know who those people are. You have to define your customers. These three myths may be blocking you from identifying your ideal customer and making the most of the customers you have.

Myth: My Software is Perfect for Everyone

Myth: My Software is Perfect for Everyone

This attitude is a common one. You’re proud of your product, justifiably so, and you believe that everyone, absolutely everyone, can benefit from using it. While this broad definition isn’t necessarily wrong, after all, Salesforce has a host of products that cater to companies of all sizes, it might actually be limiting the efficacy of your marketing efforts.

Most companies aren’t Salesforce. That’s not to say you can’t grow to become a powerhouse in the industry, but right now you’re probably one of dozens or hundreds of businesses offering similar products. To build your market share and access the diverse spectrum of customers that Salesforce has, you first have to narrow your focus.

You need to identify the customers who will benefit the most from your product and then convince them that they have a problem you can solve. Once you’ve identified your customers you can create targeted marketing aimed at them and place it on sites where they are likely to see it.

After you’ve built a strong customer base, you can work on expanding your offerings to encompass other types of clients.

I Know What is Most Valuable About my Software

Myth: I Know What is Most Valuable About my Software

You worked hard to develop your software. You studied the industry and you let your research inform your design. You put in key features that add value for users by helping them perform tasks more efficiently and save money. It’s understandable that you believe you know why your product is valuable to users.

But what if you’re wrong? What if there’s something your product does that really makes customers happy, and you aren’t aware of it? If that’s true, you may be missing vital marketing opportunities.

This problem is one most companies don’t even realize they have until they start to dig into the data. Listen to your customers. Ask for their feedback. Ask them what really sold them on your product. Ask them what they found most valuable.

Asking for customer insight can reap many benefits for your business. You’ll gain valuable information about what makes your software great, which you can then use to craft marketing campaigns that get customers excited about your product. At the same time your customers will feel like you’re listening to them, which will boost customer engagement and customer loyalty.

My Customers Want to be Left Alone

Myth: My Customers Want to be Left Alone

Communicating with clients requires a balance. Customers don’t want to be annoyed by spam emails and sales calls. Aggressive upselling will probably backfire because customers will stop taking your calls and start dumping your emails in the trash. Yet it is important to maintain open lines of communication with existing customers.

The sales relationship doesn’t end just because you’ve convinced the customer to buy your product. Particularly in the SaaS industry, keeping existing customers is far more profitable than converting new ones. Long-term customers provide a steady income for your business. They also offer opportunities for upselling without the expense of converting a new client.

So how do you continue to market to existing clients without annoying them? The key is providing useful advice and support that the customer will value. Instead of sending marketing emails, send training emails. Teach your customers how to really use and get the most out of your product. This helps build trust, which makes a client more likely to turn to you when they have another problem that needs a solution.

Ideally, you’ll identify those problems before the customer does, and present them with a solution that they can use. If you’ve built a strong foundation, the customer will likely welcome your suggestion.

To sum up. No matter how great your product is, you need to target your marketing. Customers are your best source of feedback on how to market your product. Though they don’t want to be annoyed by sales messages, customers will welcome communication from your company as long as it is relevant and useful.

SaaS Branding

Stand Out in the SaaS Market Through Brand Differentiation

You have your software. It provides a service, a service people need. It will make their lives easier, their business more efficient, and their accounting department happy (as happy as accountants can be). Clients should be crashing your server in a mad rush to access this game changing software, but they aren’t. Why not?

You may have a branding issue. In a market where a host of established companies already offer products that provide the same service – the old adage “If you build it they will come” no longer applies. You have to give your customers a reason to choose you over the competition. It’s called differentiation, and it should be the starting point for your marketing efforts.

The following questions serve as a jumping off point to help you identify what differentiates your company from the competition.

What Do you Do?

This should be a fairly simple one or two line statement. As an example, here’s the meta description for the Slack website: “Slack brings all your communication together in one place. It’s real-time messaging, archiving and search for modern teams.” Don’t worry if your statement isn’t quite as polished as this one. With some work, this statement might become your public mission statement, but right now, it’s a planning tool.

How Do you Do it?

List the key features of your product and the tools that you provide to users. And don’t forget that SaaS stands for Software as a Service. Also list the services you provide.

Where Do you Excel?

Where Do you Excel?

Is there an area of your focus in which you particularly excel? Perhaps you have amazing customer service or the slickest customer interface. Customer feedback can be a great way to identify your areas of expertise. Their answers might surprise you.

Who is Your Target Audience?

Who is Your Target Audience?

Be as specific as you can here. Your answer can’t be – Everyone. Not everyone needs Workforce Automation Software. Think about your ideal user. How big is their business? What kind of services do they provide? How many staff do they have? Do those staff members work collaboratively or independently? How many customers? How do they communicate with those customers? What is their level of technical knowledge? Do they have a formal business culture, or are they hip and trendy?

Now that you’ve answered those questions about your own software and service, you may already have some ideas about where your company excels. That’s great, but we’re not done yet. It’s time to take a look at the completion.

What Do other Brands in Your Market Do?

In examining this question you may identify service areas that other brands cover but yours does not. You may be tempted then, to try to change your software to do even more. Resist the urge. The goal here is not to redesign your product, but to figure out where you fit in the overall market landscape.

How Do They Do it?

Again you may be tempted to patch on a bunch of new features to make sure that your software does everything that theirs does. But hold on. The point here is not to change your product, but to get a clear idea of what your product is.

Where Do they Particularly Excel?

Look at the areas of service your competition stresses in their advertising. Read reviews and see what points they praise. If possible, talk to the customers of your competitors. Find out why they chose that company over others.

Who Do They Seem to be Targeting?

In some cases it’s easy to identify who your competition is targeting. Take Zirtual for example. The main message on their home page tells you their product is “for Entrepreneurs,
Professionals, and Small Teams.” Not all businesses label themselves so clearly, so you might have to make some assumptions based on their marketing. Are they talking about growing your startup or are they putting a lot of stress their software’s ability to handle huge client lists with ease? Is their messaging formal or playful?

Now that you’ve answered what, where, how, and who for both your company and the competition, it’s time to compare your answers. You are likely to find many areas where you overlap. For example, HubSpot and Infusionsoft both provide inbound marketing support through automation and optimization of online marketing to execute their clients’ individual marketing strategies.

If the answer to what What for one of the companies you listed is radically different from your answer, that company may not be your competition at all. You’re differentiated by default, since you offer a completely different service.

Your answers to How and Who are most likely to give you the key to your differentiation strategy. Though you may offer a host of features that are the same as those offered by your competition, you’ll differentiate your software by focusing on the one extra feature. If other companies are focused on clients with large established businesses, you might focus your marketing toward small to medium sized businesses.

A word of caution: you can take differentiation too far. Don’t try so hard to stand out that you promise more than you can give. Getting new customers is not use if you can’t keep them and unhappy customers can do a lot of damage to your reputation.

Focus on what your company does well. Base your marketing on that and you can’t go wrong.

SaaS Branding

Define Your Brand Through Pricing

The price you should charge for your SaaS product may seem like a foregone conclusion. You charge what the market can support, which means that you charge about the same as your competitors.

While not technically wrong, this simplistic view may result in lost revenue. Your pricing strategy can send customers powerful signals about your product, and pricing considerations should be part of your brand strategy.

To develop a pricing strategy that works, you should consider both internal and external factors affecting your business. This involves looking inward at your company as well as outward at the existing market. If either one changes too much, you may need to reevaluate your strategy.

Even if you start out with an effective strategy, you’ll likely need to adjust it multiple times over the life of your business to account for your growth and changes in the market. Here are some points to consider as you develop your initial pricing strategy and reexamine existing strategies.

Identifying Goals

Identifying Goals

Before you set a pricing strategy you need to develop a clear idea of how your company will fit into the market. Do you want to be a high-end provider or an affordable option? Do you have the infrastructure to handle a high number of clients? Do you have the staff to handle high end clients who will expect a higher level of service?

Knowing where you want to be in the market and what you can afford to offer can serve as a starting point for your pricing strategy, but it can’t be the only factor you consider.

Charging What You’re Worth

When figuring out how to set the price for your software, it may seem obvious that you should charge as little as possible. After all, customers want to save money. If you charge less, you’ll be lowering one of the hurdles that customers have to overcome to purchase your product. By this logic, lower prices should equal more customers. But there are other factors to consider.

Studies have shown that people tend to equate high prices with high quality. So setting your prices too low may send a signal to customers that you’re offering a lower quality product than your competitors. If your prices are significantly lower, customers may wonder where you cut corners to achieve those bargain basement prices.

When figuring out how to price your product take into account the value you’re providing to customers. If your product makes their business more efficient, you’re likely saving them money. Your pricing should reflect that. And your marketing should too. Communicating your value to potential customers will likely make them more willing to pay what your product is actually worth.

Look at Your Competitors

Look at Your Competitors

Now that you’ve looked inward at what your business can afford and what the product is worth it’s time to look outward at the market. Identify other companies offering similar products or services. Do they have different pricing for different levels of service? Do they offer packages? Are you offering something new or different that could demand a higher price?

Implementing Tiered Pricing

Once you’ve identified a price point, you’re still not quite done. Keep in mind that one size doesn’t necessarily fit all. Many SaaS companies, including SalesForce and HubSpot, offer tiered pricing based on the size of the organization buying the service and the level of functionality the client needs.

This is a great way to expand your market share, because it allows you to serve the needs of enterprise clients without scaring away smaller businesses who might not be able to afford, and probably don’t even need, the full package. Tiered pricing also opens you up to future upselling. You’ll be able to grow with a client by offering them what they need when they need it.

Freemium

Freemium

Finally, no discussion about pricing SaaS is complete without talking about Freemium models. Freemium is a pricing model under which you give away a basic software package for free and then charge for added features.

MailChimp is a good example of a SaaS company using a Freemium model. Mailchimp lets users send up to 12, 000 emails to up to 2,000 subscribers every month for free. That seems like a lot of emails at first, but MailChimp is banking on the fact that businesses grow and so do mailing lists. When a user wants to expand beyond these caps or if they want services that make their email campaigns more effective, like marketing automation, the user must pay to unlock the features.

Giving your product away for free might seem like a losing strategy, but Freemium has long been a recognized practice in the SaaS industry. It works because it encourages users to become invested in your product. They convert themselves, by becoming dependent on the services you provide. They also already trust your company, so when they need software solutions, they’ll look to your company first.

Other considerations

Pricing is a complex decision matrix. Every company is in some way unique, and will need to consider different factors to reach an effective pricing strategy. Ultimately, the true test of whether a pricing strategy is right for your business, is whether people are willing to pay the price you’ve set for your product.

SaaS Branding

5 Platforms to Diversify Your SaaS Marketing

For a Software as a Service company, your website is the hub of your marketing strategy. Like a traditional storefront, it’s the place customers identify as yours. It’s where they go when they need information and it’s the portal they use to contact you.

A solid website is a great marketing tool, but it can’t be your only marketing tool. Other marketing and advertising elements can help raise awareness of your product, direct customers to your website, and drive conversion.

1. Display Ads and Landing Pages

Display Ads and Landing Pages

Big-name companies like Intuit, Dropbox and SalesForce all use display ads to get their product in front of business owners and decision makers. The key to success is finding the right placement for your ads. Advertising on celebrity gossip blogs or recipe sharing sites probably isn’t going to garner the type of clients you’re looking for.

An advertising network can help by connecting you with advertisers who want high caliber advertising. Most SaaS companies, and indeed, most marketing professionals, consider Google Display Network to be the natural starting point for any display advertising campaign. BingAds and Native Ad Networks like Outbrain are great supplemental options.

Pro Tip: Optimize your impact by choosing appropriate publisher categories. The ones that work best for SaaS businesses include Tech News, SEO/SEM News Sites, and General Business News Sites.

2. Industry Relevant Referring Sites

Industry Relevant Referring Sites

Depending on your specific niche in the tech sector you may be able to place your business in service provider directories to help build awareness of your product offerings. For example, FinancesOnline.com is an independent B2B software review platform that helps business owners identify SaaS products that could help them better manage the financial aspects of their business.

Potential customers tend to trust these sites because they’re third parties. The customer may feel that they’re getting a less biased view of the product than they would get from your company’s own marketing campaigns.

Pro Tip: In most cases, you can request a review from the referring site using a simple online form.

3. Social Media

Social Media

Social media is an essential part of any modern marketing campaign, particularly for SaaS businesses. Since your customers are unlikely to ever meet you in person, social media can help build trust and foster strong client relationships. It also allows you to meet clients where they spend the bulk of their time, on sites like LinkedIn and Twitter.

A social media presence allows you to gather candid, real-time customer insights and communicate directly with customers. The goal here is to raise awareness of your SaaS and to drive traffic to your site. Every tweet or post should achieve at least one of these goals (ideally both).

Pro Tip: If every post is just an advertisement in disguise, potential customers are unlikely to follow you long enough to become paying clients. Instead, set yourself up as a subject matter expert by regularly sharing news and information about the industry.

4. Blogging

Blogging

Like social media, blogs offer a great opportunity to connect with potential customers while exposing them to your name and products. The same rules apply here as on the social media platforms. Don’t just advertise – educate, inform, amuse.

If you have your blog open to comments (and you’re wasting a good opportunity if you don’t) make sure that someone in your organization is reading those comments and engaging in the conversation.

Pro Tip: Look for opportunities to contribute to other blogs as a guest blogger. This can help increase your visibility and get your message, and your product, in front of new eyes.

5. Free Content

Free Content

Free content, like white papers and ebooks, can help convince customers that they have a problem you can solve. Write documents that are focused on the customer and their needs. Include tips and tactics and a call to action. Position yourself as an authority to be trusted in your industry, and when customers need a solution in that industry they’re likely to look to you for an answer. Offer white papers and ebooks for free download in PDF format from your website.

Pro Tip: If you include a form requiring that the user to give their name and contact information, you may drive some users away, but you will also amass contacts for potential customers.

You may not need (or have the budget and manpower) to incorporate all of these elements into your marketing strategy. It’s okay to mix and match. Whatever you do, make sure you have a clear plan with defined goals. That’s the only way to get the most out of your marketing.

SaaS Branding

A Guide to Deciding When and How to Offer a Free Trial of Your SaaS

The free trial has long been a part of the SaaS marketing and sales arsenal. Many companies including SalesForce.com, Citrix: Go to Meeting, and Concur offer free trials. Yet according to Totango, which does an annual study of trends in SaaS conversion, about 37 percent of SaaS companies choose not to offer a free trial. Workday is one of them.

Is a free trial right for my SaaS?

Is a free trial right for my SaaS?

There’s no universal answer to this. SaaS businesses should take into account several variables to make the decision. Ask yourself:

  • Is my software intuitive and easy to use?
  • Will potential clients see the value of the software immediately?
  • Can I afford to support back-end operations for clients who haven’t paid me yet?

If you answered yes to all of these questions, then a free trial will probably help sell your software to customers. If you answered no to any (or all) you might want to explore other options like preview videos, demos, or blog posts.

How long should my free trial be?

How long should my free trial be?

Again, there’s no easy answer to this. In fact, it’s been a matter of hot debate in recent years. Conventional wisdom says 30 days.

  • Is my software complex enough that it takes time to understand?
  • Do some functions of my software (like payroll) happen on a bi-weekly or monthly basis?
  • Can I afford a longer sales cycle?

If you answered yes all of these questions then a 30 day trial may be right for your software. If you answered no to any then a shorter trial may be right for you. Try offering a 14 day trial instead. This shortens your sales cycle and helps users maintain a sense of urgency. If your software is exceptionally simple or its value is transparent on minimal use, then you might even reduce your trial to 7 days. Skype is one example of a company that does this.

Short trials may not be right for all users, even if they’re generally a good fit for your product. In those cases you can offer potential clients a trial extension. A good time to offer an extension is when a potential client is getting close to the end of a free trial but has not yet converted.

How do I convince potential clients to try the product?

Offering a free trial does not guarantee that every visitor to your web site will try your product. Just because something is free doesn’t mean people want it.

  • Have I made the free trail difficult to find on my website?
  • Is it difficult for potential clients to understand what the product does?
  • Am I asking trial users for a credit card up front?

If you answered yes (or maybe) to any of these questions, you may need to rethink your strategy. Your website should always feature a prominent call to action, usually in the form of a button. You don’t have to use the words “free trial” because “test drive” or “try it now” work just as well, but make sure the trial is front and center on your website. Pair your action button with a clear description of what your product does, focusing on how it can solve a problem for your potential client. Fancy features don’t mean anything if a client can’t visualize how they’ll apply to his business.

As for credit cards, it seems obvious that getting a credit card from your potential client is a good idea, that way when a potential client is ready to convert, you’ve removed a step in the process. But not so fast. Requiring a credit card can scare users away. They may worry that you’re one of those businesses that is just waiting for the minute the free trial to run out so you can drop a huge charge on their credit card before they remember to cancel the trial. The jury is still out on this issue. You’ll have to decide based on conversion analytics.

But how do I turn free trials into sales?

But how do I turn free trials into sales?

Not every user who downloads a free trial will buy your product. Some will abandon the trial after a few days. Others will let the trial expire without doing anything at all.

It may be hard to tell why customers dropped out without analytics and some basic follow-up in the form of customer responses or surveys, but once you have that information ask yourself.

  • Does my product have the functionality the user was looking for?
  • Does the user have the basic technical skills and equipment to run my software?
  • Is the price point right for the user?

If you answered yes to all of these questions and the user still isn’t converting you may have a problem of communication. The goal of a free trial is to let the software sell itself by getting customers to engage with it in a hands-on way. They may need guidance on how to do that, or direction on where to find the most valuable tools for their business.

Communicate with your potential clients throughout their free trial. Don’t just send a welcome email. Show them where to find blogs, videos, and step-by-step guides that direct them to the most useful or impressive elements of your software. Offer a demo. The product should sell itself, but you can help.

Ultimately, the free trial is a conversion tool. If offering a free trial isn’t helping you convert customers, or if it ends up costing more money than it’s worth, buck the trend and start charging up front.

SaaS Branding

4 Ways to Build Trust with Potential and Existing Clients

Trust is the backbone of any relationship and that’s especially true for the relationship between SaaS companies and their clients. Consider the range of sensitive information your SaaS may be handling if you provide HR, CRM, or Sales Force Automation software. The success of your client’s business depends on whether your product works, and whether it delivers on the promises you’ve made to the client.

In the client’s mind it might seem safer to keep that information and those functions in-house, where their business has at least the illusion of control. For a potential client to be willing to take the plunge with your software, they have to trust you and the product. Here are 4 ways to build trust from initial contact through follow-up.

1. Craft a trustworthy website

Craft-a-trustworthy-website

What makes a website appear trustworthy? First let potential clients know that your website is secure. Include security certificates, credit card symbols, and affiliations such as Better Business Bureau membership prominently on your website.

If possible, include testimonials and logos from satisfied customers. One way that potential clients assess whether a business is trustworthy is by looking for other businesses that use and trust the product.

Offer plenty of information. People tend to fear what they don’t know, so offer as much information as possible about your product and service to help potential clients make informed decisions.

Including these elements will help you set the groundwork for trust, but customer service is what really seals the deal, which brings us to our second tip.

2. Be available

Be available

SaaS stands for software as a service. Don’t make the mistake of focusing exclusively on the software and neglecting the service element. You need to be available to answer questions for potential clients and convert them into paying clients.

Provide clients and potential clients with a selection of ways to contact you. Live Chat is a great way to engage customers because it allows them to ask questions while on your site and without having to pick up the phone.

That being said, some people are more comfortable if they can hear a human voice, so provide a phone number that someone will actually answer. If you can’t answer every call, make sure you return phone calls in a timely manner.

Of course, email is the old standby. Even though it’s less immediate than the other contact methods, it has the advantage of being available to clients 24-7, even on holidays.

3. Offer a free trail

Offer a free trail

It seems counterintuitive to give your product away for free, but free trials have become the standard in the SaaS industry. They are huge trust builders for potential clients because a free trial allows the client to actually engage with the product and make sure it works for their business.

Ideally, a free trial lasts somewhere between 14 and 30 days. Longer than 30 days and you may lose the sense of urgency that encourages potential clients to actually explore the product, less than 14 days and they may not feel they know the product well enough to make a decision.

Stay in contact with the potential client throughout the trail period. Make sure they know how to reach you if they have questions and give them plenty of opportunities to buy.

Most importantly, when they are ready to convert, make sure it is easy for them to do so. There is nothing more frustrating than having to jump through hoops to give someone your money.

4. Keep in Contact

Keep in Contact

The structure of the SaaS industry means that, retaining clients is more valuable than landing new clients. If you have one client who pays you $100 a month for your product and sticks with you for three years, it’s better than 30 clients who pay their hundred and then close their accounts at the end of the first month.

To keep clients you have to keep building trust. That means you keep the lines of communication open. Check in with clients periodically to make sure they’re happy with the product and your service. If you find that they’re not, find out why not, and do what you can to fix it.

Building trust with clients takes time, and different clients will need different levels of engagement to feel secure, but it’s time and effort well spent. A client who trusts you and has faith in your product, is a client who will stick with you for the long-haul.