With the enterprise SaaS market now over $100 billion annually, competition is more intense than ever. And while COVID lockdowns have adversely affected demand in some verticals – travel and tourism, most notably – the SaaS industry has fared well overall, thanks to accelerated growth in software for remote teams, supply chain management and other verticals, and its inherent cost advantages, scalability and flexibility.
SaaS firms must now refine their digital marketing campaigns to keep pace with evolving Internet marketing technologies, industry best practices, tech-savvy customers and sophisticated competitors. In this article, we look at the nine areas of digital marketing of special importance to SaaS organizations. The first three deal with the foundation of digital marketing, the company website; the balance involve five types of digital marketing campaigns that are popular and effective in the SaaS industry.
1. Optimize page loading speed
Page loading speed may sound like a detail – perhaps even a minor detail – of website design and development. However, page speed is now more important than ever in digital marketing. Driving this change is Google’s recent introduction of Page Speed Insights, or PSI, which measures page loading speed across all devices (desktop, mobile phone, etc.). PSI is part of a larger Google initiative, Core Web Vitals, which is aimed at factoring user experience (UX) into its organic ranking of search results. Any SEO campaign, no matter how successful in the past, will now find itself increasingly handicapped by slow-loading website pages.
Beyond undermining SEO strategy, slow page loading, especially on mobile devices, adversely affects bounce rates and is a conversion killer. SaaS marketing is especially vulnerable to page loading issues, since screencasts, images and video, widely used in SaaS marketing, are common culprits. The coding, storage and serving of visual web content must be handled carefully to ensure fast-loading content. Not sure how you stack up? Start with testing your website pages on Google’s PageSpeed Insights.
Another significant problem of slow-loading web pages for SaaS companies is brand perception. If a company selling software solutions can’t deliver its own web content effectively, how reliable can its software service possibly be? This question, a conversion killer, is apt to be the prospect’s immediate response to a slow-loading page. Conversely, if your page loading is lightning quick, you create a positive brand perception before your prospect reads one word of your website content.
2. Improve and test free trials
Over 65% of SaaS companies offer a free trial or demo to prospective customers, making it a popular and fairly standard method of customer acquisition. To maximize the effectiveness of your free trial, carefully review these critical components:
- Duration. Free offers typically range from a few days to a month, with 14 days being the current standard. There is no single perfect length for a trial; the real question is: How much time passes before a prospect recognizes the value of your product?
- Required information. The more information you require from the prospect in advance, the less likely he or she will be to register for a trial. Requiring credit card information in advance has pros and cons, but the more well known your brand, the more comfortable prospects are with signing up.
- Opt-in versus opt-out. Opt-in trials attract signups more easily than opt-out trials because no payment information is collected. However, because opt-out trials require payment information (along with a fee in some models), the user has a little more “skin in the game.” Testing both models is worthwhile to determine which produces the higher conversion rate.
3. Update and test landing pages
According to recent research, the SaaS landing page conversion rate is 10.46% lower than average. What to do? Review all aspects of your landing pages for content, design and UX. Although landing pages under-perform for many reasons, common issues include:
- Vague headlines
- Content not relevant to the traffic source (email, search, ad, etc.)
- Weak calls to action
- Complicated submit forms
- Hard-to-use forms (Be sure to test usability on mobile devices)
- Generic imagery
- No credibility elements
Landing page split testing should be an ongoing part of marketing campaigns since landing page defects must be isolated to be identified and improved.
4. Embrace omnichannel engagement
Omnichannel marketing gained traction in 2021 and, driven by the pandemic, will be a major force going forward in B2B as well as B2C customer engagement. By presenting the brand consistently across all channels, and tightly integrating digital engagement and conversion funnels, SaaS firms have an opportunity to generate new business from multiple channels and create a seamless business experience for prospects and customers alike.
Personalization, live chat, targeted email campaigns and sophisticated mobile website optimization are among the specific areas of the omnichannel experience SaaS firms should strongly consider focusing on.
5. Cultivate and repurpose customer reviews
Positive editorial customer reviews enhance brand perception and strongly influence conversions. Furthermore, customer reviews, although not a formal ranking factor for Google, do have a positive impact on SEO results, especially for reviews that appear on Google My Business.
For maximum effect, the editorial content of the review(s) should address the needs of the target audience with the appropriate language and style. Reviews are particularly helpful for conversion rates when they appear on landing pages and the website home page, and when woven into email and video content.
Consider taking advantage of customer reviews on your Facebook profile as well. One of the only social platforms with a specific customer review section, Facebook can be a rich source of sales leads and demo signups, especially when your Facebook page is seamlessly connected to your website inquiry and signup pages (see the omnichannel engagement section above).
6. Implement a native advertising campaign
About 26% of Internet users use ad blockers, which substantially reduces the effectiveness of display and banner advertising. A more effective alternative is native advertising – ads that look like part of the editorial content of the web page on which they appear. Native ads typically appear in social media news feeds and search results, and on the open web.
Native ads – which are also described as paid content – are effective when their content is extremely relevant and the imagery is highly engaging. Note that native ads – projected to be a $400 billion industry by 2025 – create an 18% increase in purchase intent, with a CTR so attractive that marketers doubled their spends on native ads between 2018 and 2020.
Although in some quarters native ads are sometimes criticized for being deceptive, SaaS customers are much more tech-savvy than the average Internet user and will recognize native advertising for what it is – a perfectly acceptable and effective method of advertising. Based on this audience characteristic alone, native advertising is a natural for SaaS in 2021 and beyond.
7. Scale, streamline and integrate PPC campaign management
PPC advertising is a popular option among SaaS firms and has become, especially over the last few years, a type of native advertising. In the early days of search, ads appearing on Google SERPs (search engine results pages) looked like ads; today, they are hard to differentiate from organic results. This development makes PPC only more appealing for lead generation (see native advertising, above).
To take PPC further, scale and streamline PPC campaigns by expanding target keyword selection; utilizing smart algorithmic technologies for forecasting, budget pacing and reporting; and implementing a platform that rapidly improves CRO by facilitating dynamic landing page production and landing page testing.
Another way to leverage PPC is to improve close rates by integrating PPC campaigns with the sales team. Campaign data is extremely useful in the sales process to isolate the best offers and refine the best ways to communicate offers and value propositions.
8. Use local SEO to supplement national and enterprise campaigns
If your SaaS firm has a national SEO or enterprise SEO campaign underway, adding a local SEO component will improve overall campaign effectiveness and add new, important dimensions to your SEO marketing efforts. Targeted local campaigns make valuable contributions in several ways, including:
- Introducing new services in competitive geographic markets
- Competing better against entrenched competitors
- Defending against new competitors in target geographic markets
- Expanding into new geographic markets
- Further penetrating established geographic markets
- Beta testing new services, keywords, meta descriptions, etc.
Because local keyword search volume is smaller than more general keyword searches, local focus gives you a much better opportunity to rank highly (or even dominate rankings) in the geographic markets most important to your business.
9. Upgrade your company blog
Company blogs have gone in and out of fashion over the past 15 years, but 2021 is the time to maximize your blog’s marketing potential. Several reasons support doing this:
- Visual content marketing is booming. One recent survey found that over 60% of marketers expect visual content to be a key component of their strategies. By its nature, SaaS is sold most effectively visually – and blog posts are an excellent way to focus attention on key service features as well as niche features that powerfully differentiate your service.
- Blog posts enable you to implement a deep, systematic longtail keyword strategy for your SEO campaign.
- Blog posts facilitate a less formal way of engaging customers and prospects, improving brand perception, bringing customers back to your website, and creating new conversion funnels.
If your blog has been on autopilot, now is a good time for a strategic refresh.
So there you have 9 best practices for SaaS companies on how to build out a marketing strategy that can succeed in 2021 and beyond. Good luck!