Category: SaaS Branding

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.