How marketing is changing for SaaS companies

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Published Oct 09, 2017 | Written by Keith Errington

It is a tumultuous time for anyone involved in SaaS marketing – massive changes in the marketing landscape, the way customers buy and the channels available mean that SaaS marketing plans and strategy are having to be revised or even scrapped. SaaS companies, with their reliance on good marketing to gain customers and combat churn, will find themselves at the forefront of this change. They can either surf it and gain the benefits – or go under.

Here are three radical ways marketing is changing for SaaS companies.

Rise of content

No one can deny the rise in the hype for content marketing over the past few years – but is it just that? Hype? Or is it a genuine change? Well, all the studies, data, statistics, surveys and pundits agree that it is a sea change in the way marketing works – as other forms of marketing prove less and less effective, content marketing has risen about the pack to become the most effective way to attract and keep customers.

This is mostly due to the impact of the Internet on the buying process. Buyers can now inform themselves about products and services rather than having to speak to salespeople, so they will now come to you fully informed and ready to buy. This one change has a number of implications:

  • The Salesperson role has changed
  • Sales focussed marketing no longer works
  • Providing helpful content when the prospect is researching is most effective
  • Thinking of the customer first will help organisations succeed
  • The relationship goes beyond the sale

Salespeople now have to become more like consultants offering a higher level of expert advice when the prospect contacts them. Their role is not to sell the service but to guide the prospect to the best possible solution for them and to make it easier for them to buy and onboard. Giving the importance of reducing churn, they should also be involved after the point of sale and continue to hand-hold through the initial sign up and first use of the service. Old methods and attitudes need to change as…

Sales Focussed Marketing is far less effective. Prospects are more fully aware of the products and services on the market. They can research their weaknesses and strengths, look at peer reviews and get recommendations from colleagues. All of this means that they are less likely to be swayed by persuasive messages or effusive advertising that hypes the service unrealistically. What they are interested in, is how the service will benefit them, how it works, and what the best solution – for them – would be. All of which leads to…

Providing Helpful Content, which is now the most effective route to gaining prospects and leads. Using a buyer persona, you can put yourself in their shoes at different stages in the researching and buying process and create content that answers their questions, helps them to decide on the right solution and make the best decision for them. It's not about trying to sell your solution to all and sundry anymore (if it ever was), but about…

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Thinking of the customer first. An approach that puts the customer front and centre throughout the buying and onboarding stages will be the most effective. And that’s a win-win situation for you and your customer. In SaaS, it is particularly important that…

The relationship goes beyond the sale – as the biggest enemy of SaaS businesses is churn – customers giving up on the services after a period of use. This means that content should not only address the needs and interests of prospects but of existing customers too. And when you add in the advantages of upselling additional services to existing customers, then creating on-going, helpful content looks even more essential.

Multiple channels

Another reason to nurture customers after the sale is the increasing importance of social media and peer reviews – both of which factor highly in prospects research and evaluation. In fact, the number of potential channels that a prospect might use is greater than ever and makes it very difficult to follow a prospect’s journey through the various touchpoints involved in the journey to the final decision. This means that SaaS marketers need more time, more resources, more planning to cover all the channels effectively. To minimise wasted effort you need to establish which channels your customers and prospects are using and concentrate on those. But you also need to bear in mind the potential return on investment – as an example, Facebook can be very effective in some industries, but in others, it can be a bit of a black hole with marketing messages seen by few people and actioned by even less. Monitoring and keeping up to date with which channels your prospects and customers are using can require quite a lot of effort – here a marketing system solution such as Hubspot can really help by collecting the many different strands and displaying them in a single marketing dashboard.

Customer services

If there is one area that has always been important when it comes to SaaS, it is customer service – software providers live or die by their on-going customer service. Good service prevents churn and makes upselling additional services easier, whereas bad service results in customers leaving the service in droves and worse, telling all their peers about it on social media. Really good customer service can do much more, creating brand ambassadors and enthusiasts for your software services. Good customer service doesn't just mean fixing things fast when they go wrong, it means communicating the situation honestly all the way through the process (do that well and the speed of fix actually becomes less important). More than that, it means having a good solid product in the first place – because everyone in the modern world talks to everyone else, you cannot get away providing a poor product and selling it through big marketing budgets and slick campaigns anymore.

Conclusion – invest in core product, the sales and marketing teams and content

All these factors have been around for a while, but they have reached the point where they are becoming make or break for businesses in SaaS. To succeed in SaaS it’s become all about a holistic approach that covers every aspect of the business – not just SaaS marketing, but product development, training, delivery, maintenance, and support. The relationship between sales and marketing has to change and be more coordinated with sales developing into a more consultative role.

All of this requires more investment – investment in the core product, in the marketing and sales teams and most importantly for the success of the marketing plan – investment in content creation.

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Published by Keith Errington October 9, 2017
Keith Errington