I hate to say it, but SaaS companies have become a commodity. The competition for attention is so fierce, and many customers don’t like paying for subscriptions.
So in order to win, when it comes to SaaS marketing, you need to have a strategic plan.
With more than seven years in SaaS marketing strategy — working as an early marketer at Webflow, and currently consulting with many different VC-backed SaaS companies — I decided to write down some of the marketing strategies I currently see working.
So sit tight, this is about to get interesting.
What is SaaS marketing?
SaaS (software as a service) marketing refers to the marketing initiatives taken by a SaaS company to help them generate brand awareness, users, and paying customers for its products and services.
Effective SaaS marketing requires that you have a deep understanding of your target audience, the desires they have, the problems they encounter in their everyday lives, and how your product is the best fit for their needs and wants.
In general, the way you measure the success of your SaaS marketing efforts is based on bottom-line revenue. But revenue is the outcome of all of your marketing initiatives.
So many marketing teams at SaaS companies focus on secondary metrics such as:
- Website visitors
- Conversion rates
- New free users (if you have a freemium offering)
- New paying customers
- LTV (customer lifetime value)
- CAC (cost to acquire a customer)
- User retention metrics
In the rest of this article, I’ll show you some marketing ideas you can implement for your SaaS company to drive brand awareness, and ultimately get more paying customers.
But first, let's talk about what you need to consider before you craft your SaaS marketing strategy. The plan you come up with is going to vary depending on what type of SaaS company you are.
Things to consider before crafting your SaaS marketing strategy
Before you start crafting your marketing strategy and begin executing anything, you need to understand a few things about the nature of your SaaS business.
Brian Balfour, CEO of Reforge and former VP of Growth at HubSpot, has a great blog post that talks about how you need to be mindful of a few things when trying to grow a software business. These are:
- Your model
- Your channels
- Your market
- Your product
It’s not one size fits all.
In simple terms, what you really need to pay attention to is (1) your business model, (2) your buyer personas, and (3) the marketing channels that make the most sense based on the first two.
Let’s talk about these.
What is your business model?
Your business model is crucial when it comes to figuring out your marketing strategy. Sure, the SaaS industry can matter as well, but the model your company operates on is almost more important.
- Are you a freemium SaaS product?
- Are you a limited free trial SaaS product?
- Are you an enterprise “book a demo” type SaaS product?
These are important questions to answer because your marketing approach will look different for each one.
It will look different for each model because of the type of buyer you’re going after and the sales cycle required for each.
For example, SaaS companies like Webflow and Notion have a freemium model — you can use their products without having to pull out your credit card. But they monetize through premium paid features for their power users.
Companies like these need to focus on scale. So they may raise a lot of capital to spend on advertising, SEO, social media, influencer marketing, and any way that can help them cast their net as wide as possible (within their target demographic, of course).
These types of companies may create marketing teams that act more like media teams, helping them attract attention through content.
On the other hand, a more enterprise-type of product that requires you to “book a demo” may take a much different approach.
These companies tend to have much higher LTVs because they have higher revenue per customer. But it also may take them a long time to close a deal.
So companies like these tend to be sales-first. They may hire a sales team that then works in tandem with the marketing team. Sales goes to marketing with ideas for case studies, white papers, or webinars, and the marketing team produces the sales collateral.
These enterprise SaaS companies may also focus on outbound marketing instead of inbound marketing, or a combination of both.
For enterprise companies, at least in the early stages, it might make sense to build strategic partnerships and relationships with vendors in their industry, rather than trying to do something like run Facebook ads.
This is why business models are so important. What works for a freemium SaaS company may not be the best approach for an enterprise SaaS company and vice versa.
Are you bootstrapped or do you have funding?
The next thing you should think about is how much money you actually have to invest in marketing.
Marketing ain’t cheap.
If you’re a bootstrapped company, chances are profits might be more of a focus rather than “grow at all costs.”
In this case, money is valued more than time — slow growth. So taking an outbound approach, investing in SEO content, or doing strategic partnerships or affiliate deals may make the most sense.
It can be a slower growth process, but it can help you build a sustainable company in the long run.
On the other hand, if you’re a venture-backed SaaS company, marketing teams are generally pressured to focus on growth as much as possible. This means time is valued more than money — fast growth.
In this case, you might scale a marketing team fast and have your hands in all types of things, from paid ads on YouTube, TikTok, Facebook, Google, etc. And you may also invest in SEO, content marketing, email marketing, influencer marketing, and anything that will help you grow.
Okay, now that we’ve gone over that, let’s talk about some strategies you can use to grow a SaaS business. Just remember that not all of these will make sense based on your business model, but some will!
Disclaimer: None of this is business or financial advice. Everything I’m about to go over is anecdotal and for entertainment purposes only. Take it all with a grain of salt.
11 best B2B SaaS marketing strategies for 2023
Here are 11 different SaaS marketing strategies you can use in 2023:
- Growth loops
- Crafting your homepage and website
- Content marketing and SEO
- Launch an affiliate program
- Community marketing
- Launch a newsletter
- Do sponsorships with media sites
- Do sponsorships with micro-influencers
- Launch on Product Hunt
- Do manual outreach via LinkedIn & email
- Join communities with other SaaS marketers
Okay, let's dive a bit deeper into each of these.
1. Growth loops
Growth loops are the new marketing funnel — according to Silicon Valley. Essentially, a growth loop is a product or marketing initiative that compounds itself.
The idea is that the companies with the strongest user retention are the ones that win in the long term.
This is because the longer someone uses a product, the more likely they are to recommend it to their peers. But not only that. The longer someone uses a product, it signals that that user is getting value and they will stick around for a longer time — helping you increase LTV.
So this part is very much embedded into the way product and growth teams build a piece of software. It’s not that easy for a single marketer, that has no influence over product development and decisions, to make a large impact here.
But if possible, this is the number one way you want to grow.
For example, beehiiv is a great example of a company that has grown from a viral growth loop. In every email sent using beehiiv, there’s a “Publish on beehiiv” badge that leads to their website.
This means every creator or brand, that uses beehiiv to send email marketing campaigns and newsletters, is essentially spreading the word about beehiiv.
Some of the largest content creators have launched their newsletters with this platform, helping beehiiv create a growth loop that allows them acquire customers at no cost.
In fact, we are a beehiiv customer because of this very reason. I learned about them from being subscribed to a different newsletter that was on beehiiv.
In essence, the more emails people send using beehiiv, the more awareness beehiiv gets and the more potential customers learn about them. It compounds — a true growth loop.
But marketers can also use growth loops as a frame of thinking, even if they don’t have a say over product decisions.
For example, you can look at something like TikTok ads as a growth loop.
I’m going to speak hypothetically here: You can spend $1,000 on ads to generate $10,000 in revenue. Then you can spend $10,000 of that revenue on ads again to generate $100,000 in revenue. Then you can spend that $100,000 you made in revenue on ads again to generate $1M in revenue.
It’s not that clear-cut, but you get the point.
Bottom line, start thinking about your marketing initiatives in terms of growth loops. The more growth loops you can stack on top of each other, the faster you’ll (generally) grow.
2. Crafting your homepage and website
You may not think about this part much, but your SaaS website and homepage can be the most important part of your marketing strategy.
Your website is your main marketing asset, and (generally) your homepage is the first impression you’ll give to potential customers.
Your homepage needs to address three questions your prospective customers will either consciously or subconsciously ask themselves:
- Does this product satisfy my desires?
- Does this product work? Does it fulfill my role?
- Is anyone actually using this product? Do I believe this is the best product I can use to satisfy my desire(s)?
These principles come straight from one of the most powerful marketing books written in the 1960s, Breakthrough Advertising.
Let’s go over these.
Desire is defined by the wants and needs that drive your target audience through life. Desire isn’t something that’s easy to create — people generally have their own motivations for how they live their lives.
Your goal as a marketer is to understand your prospect's desires and expand on them, fine-tune them, and channel them into your product.
This is why it’s so important to create an ICP (ideal customer profile), so you can study your target audience inside out.
When it comes to your website, you can channel your ICP's desire through the headline in the hero section of your homepage.
Webflow does a great job of this by using words like “you” and focusing on the desire their customers have:
If there’s one takeaway from this, it’s that you need to lean into the true desire your prospect has for even wanting to use a product like yours.
The role is where your ICP begins to think about the legitimacy of your product and how it will act as their tool to achieve their desire.
As it pertains to your homepage, this is going to be the main bulk of your features/benefits section.
The role is the personality traits that your target customer wants your product to help them build or project in their professional lives. Here, you need to show how your product fits your prospect’s role in life.
Ahrefs does a great job of this:
They also do a great job with the “roles” part:
The main takeaway here is that you need to prove your product works and how it fulfills your target customer’s role.
And lastly, we have belief. This is the world of emotionalized reason.
Just like desire, it’s very hard to change or create someone's beliefs. It’s not impossible, but it’s hard. Instead, you should understand your ICP enough to know how they logically come to conclusions in their life.
For this part, you need to instill trust in your target audience so they believe that your product is for them. Essentially, you need to give social proof and prove that your SaaS product is the best one available on the market to fit their role.
Notion does a great job with the social proof part:
And Ghost does a great job explaining that no other product on the market satisfies their audiences’ desire like theirs does:
The main takeaway here is that you need to prove that people rely on your products and that no other product satisfies your audiences’ needs as well as yours does. Show your product’s greatest strength.
Note: This section was straight from one of our weekly newsletter editions. Subscribe for free if you want marketing tips like this weekly!
Staying on the topic of copy and content, let’s get into the next SaaS marketing strategy!
3. Content marketing and SEO
I already wrote a full guide on a content marketing strategy for SaaS, so I won’t get into extensive details here. But, I will give you the highlights from that article.
This part is near and dear to my heart because it’s what I know most in SaaS. I used to work in-house at Webflow, leading their SEO strategy and content marketing efforts. And now, I run this blog and do SaaS content marketing consulting on the side.
Content marketing is a pretty broad term, and it can span many different areas of content — such as videos, blog posts, podcasts, webinars, and more.
But, because we are focused more on B2B SaaS marketing here, I want to stick to the basics and go over the content that will actually go on your SaaS website — which is the most important content, in my opinion.
The goal of content marketing, and SEO, for SaaS companies is to drive awareness of your brand, turn you into a trustworthy source of information for your industry and potential customers, and help you with customer acquisition.
This is primarily going to be done with landing pages and SEO-focused blog posts. Let’s go over those real quick.
Landing pages on your website should have a few key goals:
- Feature pages: Shows your prospect what your product does
- Use case pages: Shows who your product is for with real-world applications
- VS pages: Shows how your product compares to alternatives in your industry
Here’s an example of a feature page done well by Webflow:
This page should simply show off the tech specs of your product. What is it, and what does it do?
Here is an example of a use case page done well by Copilot:
This page shows who your product is specifically designed for. In the case of Copilot, they offer white-label custom client portals for service-based businesses. And freelancers are one of their ICPs.
And lastly, one of the highest converting landing pages you can create on your SaaS website are VS style pages. Here is a great example from Framer:
These landing pages tend to get less traffic because they’re not great at driving new awareness to your website. But they do tend to have the highest conversion rates because if someone is searching in Google for your brand vs a competitor, chances are their intent to buy is very high — so this is your opportunity to persuade your prospect to use your product instead of the alternative they’re searching for.
As mentioned, if you want to learn more about these types of landing pages, check out my SaaS content marketing guide on this blog. And if you want extra help, be sure to contact me (check the footer)!
Blog posts are going to be your main organic traffic growth driver when it comes to non-branded search traffic. I have a full guide on how to write SEO blog posts that you should definitely check out if you want to learn more about this.
It’s helped me grow a lot of SaaS websites and even this blog in just the past year:
This section would be way too long if I explain it all here, but the main point here is to figure out your content lifecycle strategy, do keyword research, prioritize what content to write, create content outlines, write them, publish them, interlink them, and potentially drive backlinks to them — in that order.
The key thing here is your content/user lifecycle strategy. I created a framework for this strategy that helps you get a birds-eye view of all the content you need to write. Here’s what it looks like for a fake SaaS company I created called ReachThem — a tool that helps you send outreach emails:
It helps you create a clear strategy for how you should approach SaaS keyword research and content production.
Okay, let’s keep going through the rest of our list.
4. Launch an affiliate program
If it makes sense with your business model, one of the most powerful forms of marketing you can leverage is an affiliate program.
When you have an affiliate or referral program, you incentivize word-of-mouth marketing. This is definitely going to help if you decide to work with influencers in the future (more on that later).
There are tons of media review sites, bloggers (like me!), YouTube channels, newsletters, and podcasts that have a large following — many of which have the attention of your target customer.
When I was at Webflow, I managed the affiliate program and saw the power of how this could be a new revenue stream for a SaaS company.
Affiliate programs tend to fall under paid acquisition, but it's the most predictable form of paid advertising in the sense that you get to pick your CAC (customer acquisition cost). Your CAC through an affiliate program is essentially the commission structure you decide on.
Some SaaS companies offer 50% commission for up to one year (of a subscription), some offer 20-30% for lifetime commissions, and some even do one-time payments. The last one may make more sense if you’re an enterprise SaaS.
But the most successful affiliate programs generally offer a commission for as long as someone continues to be a paying customer. This incentivizes those with an audience to promote your product as much as possible.
For example, Jasper AI has a great affiliate program that tons of bloggers and YouTubers are a part of:
If you’re interested in creating an affiliate program for your SaaS company, here are a few popular platforms that can help you get it set up:
All of these are great platforms for SaaS companies. Almost all the SaaS affiliate programs that we promote through our content are built on these tools.
And no, none of those platforms paid me to mention them.
5. Community marketing
Community is sort of a vague topic. But to me, it means creating a list of people that care about what you are doing.
This could mean getting a Slack or Discord community together, creating a newsletter, launching a YouTube channel, or even building an email list through gated content like ebooks or webinars.
If you want to get transactional about it, your community is your list.
Let’s go over some examples of SaaS companies doing this.
Here is an example of what community looks like for Clearscope:
Clearscope does weekly webinars with amazing leaders in the content and SEO space. To be able to join one of their webinars, or watch a replay, you need to enter your email address.
This helps Clearscope create a list of people that are interested in what they’re doing. And the webinars are super insightful, I recommend any content person join them (and no, they did not pay me to say that).
Another example is Webflow. They have an amazing newsletter, called Webflow Inspo, that goes over all things related to design. And they allow their blog readers to subscribe to it (similar to how this blog does it):
And for the last example, which is a great one, is a SaaS company called Slidebean. Slidebean has a large YouTube channel where the CEO talks about various topics that their target audience may be interested in:
As you can see, content is a real driver of attention. So let’s keep diving deeper.
6. Launch a newsletter
Staying on the topic of building a community, launching a newsletter is a great way to build trust with future customers and nurture existing customers.
You can get someone to subscribe to your newsletter by creating lead magnets or having a subscribe option embedded on your website and blog posts. Or, you can even get people to subscribe to your newsletter during your user onboarding process.
The key to a successful newsletter is to have a marketing plan for why it exists. A great way to go about it is to split up your newsletter efforts into two:
- For giving product updates to existing users and customers
- For creating content for your target audience without asking for anything in return
The first option is what most SaaS companies already do, and they may use a platform like Customer.io to help them do it.
But the latter is one that I don’t see a lot of SaaS companies leveraging.
A great example of a company leveraging a newsletter audience to build community is Robinhood. While it’s not technically a traditional SaaS company, they have a newsletter called Robinhood Snacks that gives people an overview on what’s happening in finance:
Having a newsletter like this can be a great way to become a thought leader in your industry and build a strong brand. Granted, the quality of your newsletter content, and the frequency at which you send it, will matter.
The idea here is to give value to your customers and not sell them anything directly. Maybe once in a while, you can mention your SaaS product. And if people love your content and brand enough, they might become paying customers.
7. Do sponsorships with media sites
A great paid SaaS marketing strategy you can use is sponsoring media sites — just like this one!
I’m only half-joking.
But really, with ad costs on Google PPC, Facebook, and Instagram making CAC go way too high for some industries, tapping into media sites is a great way to advertise your SaaS where your competitors aren’t.
Take for example, Marketing Examples. It’s a great site with lots of cool examples of marketing from real companies. Of course, marketers go on this site a lot, and many companies know this. So SaaS companies that have a marketing audience sponsor the site, sometimes the same company for months at a time.
Finding opportunities like this can help you go where your competitors aren’t. If you’re just advertising on YouTube like everyone else, your target market will see ads from you and every one of your competitors — the competition is real.
But if you go where others aren’t, you can find hidden opportunities that could potentially yield great results.
8. Do sponsorships with micro-influencers
Staying on the topic of sponsorships, another strategy is to sponsor micro-influencers in your niche. The reason why you want to go after people with smaller followings is because:
- It can be a cost-effective way to drive attention.
- Smaller audiences tend to be more loyal.
If a creator knows their worth, the first one may not be much of an advantage to going after smaller influencers. But the second point is the key thing here.
Smaller audiences tend to be more passionate and more receptive to recommendations given by the “influencer” they follow.
A great example of this can be seen with SEO expert, Kevin Indig. Kevin has a wealth of knowledge about search engine optimization and generously writes out his thoughts and ideas on his site. And many people, myself included, love his work.
And of course, many startups know how passionate his audience is, so they sponsor many of his blog posts. In many of his articles, the beginning part is about a SaaS company that sponsored his content.
The opportunities here are endless if you can identify people that already have the attention of the potential customers you are trying to reach.
And if you already have an affiliate program set up before you start reaching out to micro-influencers, you can sweeten the deal for them by offering a sponsorship deal + an affiliate deal — setting you apart from other SaaS companies reaching out to these people with low-ball sponsorship offers.
9. Launch on Product Hunt
If you’re deep in the SaaS space, this one might come as no surprise. But launching your website on Product Hunt can be a great way to get a burst of attention to your product.
Product Hunt is a website where people post about the products they’re building, and people can comment and upvote on them.
If you get a top product of the day on Product Hunt, it could potentially lead to thousands of visitors, and hundreds of users, on your website in just a couple of days.
And sometimes, this burst of attention can be the first strike of momentum your product needs — especially if you focused on the first part we talked about how you need to reduce churn rates with growth loops.
If you do decide to launch on Product Hunt, there are some best practices you should follow. I won’t get into them here, but this is a great article you should check out if you’re interested in this marketing idea.
10. Do manual outreach via LinkedIn & email
If you’re an enterprise SaaS company, or rely on SaaS sales, this is probably the strategy you want to start with initially.
This one is simple.
Find decision-makers on LinkedIn, use something like Hunter.io or VoilaNorbert to find their emails, and send them personalized messages on who you are and how you can help them.
The key to making this work is to not just “spray and pray” that someone will bite. If you want to destroy your email deliverability rates, then go ahead and send mass emails that will hurt your brand.
But if you care about doing things in an ethical and right way, make sure to customize each email you send.
It’s okay to create email templates, but you shouldn't templatize more than 80% of your emails. You should leave at least 20% of each template to be completely customized for the person you are reaching out to.
Chances are, the people you reach out to are getting tons of emails every day from people trying to sell them on something. So you need to stand out by being highly personalized and giving value without asking for much.
For example, if you identify a clear problem a potential client is going through, you can email them pointing it out and tell them exactly how to fix it on their own. Then, you can end your email by saying something like “I’m also seeing a lot of other opportunities that I’d love to show you if you want to hop on a call.”
Of course, you should make it more personable than that, but you get the point.
Give value, and don’t ask for something. It’s rude to just email someone expecting them to take time out of their day to talk to you with nothing in return. Focus on what your prospect wants and help them get it. Build trust. This is how you can create qualified leads.
11. Join communities with other SaaS marketers
Last, but not least, one of the best ways to continue finding more SaaS marketing strategies is to join communities with other SaaS marketers.
Here are a couple of great communities you can join:
- Superpath (for content marketing)
- Demand Curve (for growth marketing)
None of these communities paid me to mention them. I just find that there are a lot of smart people in these communities you can learn from.
But if you want to find your own communities, there’s a cool website that curates a bunch of communities (not limited to just marketing).
Again, I am not paid to say this, but Hive Index has a list of really cool communities you can join and learn from.
Okay, that’s it!
We’ve come a long way since traditional digital marketing tactics. When it comes to SaaS marketing, there are many different approaches you can take.
Often, focusing on just one channel, and niching down as much as possible, is the way to go. As you start to grow from one channel, you can start to introduce other strategies to help you scale.
For example, it might make sense to do some manual outreach in the early days to get some users. Then, as you learn the pain points your users have, you can dive into SEO and content marketing because you’ll have a wide range of content topics to talk about.
Gone are the days of simple lead generation tactics to acquire new customers. SaaS is starting to become a commodity, so you need to think a bit outside of the box.
But more importantly, you need to build a brand. You do this through high-quality content that is authentic, social proof with real testimonials, and great customer retention.
It’s not an easy combination to have, which is why competition is fierce. But if you truly understand your customers better than anyone else, you’ll win in the long run.
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