black and white image of a man in a hoodie working in his laptop
black and white image of a man in a hoodie working in his laptop
#Saas Marketing #Marketing Playbook

SaaS Marketing Playbook

Paul Kiernan

No matter how much the playbook changes game to game, one thing is true, every team needs a playbook. This holds true for SaaS marketing as well. 

For an NFL team, a playbook is indispensable. The team takes the week before a game to study it, finalize which plays will work best against their upcoming opponent, and every team member on and off-field knows precisely which plays will be run during the game. Of course, there are backup plays to take injuries into account or other unforeseen incidents, and the team knows those as well.

The thing about a playbook is that it’s constantly evolving. You can’t create a playbook for one season and just use it again and again for the rest of the team’s life. In time, defensive and offensive coordinators from other teams will recognize your playbook and have solutions. Also, you may get new weapons, lose old ones, and the dynamic of the team changes. So, the playbook has to change as well.

No matter how much the playbook changes game to game, one thing is true, every team needs a playbook, and without one, there is no direction, no purpose, and the chances of winning are pretty slim.

This holds true for SaaS marketing as well. You need a playbook, a document that sets a standard for cross-team communication, creative alignment, and the overall execution of your campaign. A playbook can also provide a clear view of the main objectives and the key messages in the play for all stakeholders. Without a playbook, there is no chance of winning.

This article helps you build a better understanding of the elements that go into a SaaS marketing playbook. So, today we will be covering:

  • SaaS Marketing Funnel
  • SaaS Marketing Budget
  • Marketing SaaS Companies
  • SaaS Email Marketing
  • SaaS Content Marketing
  • SaaS Video Marketing
  • SaaS Marketing Calendar

So, let’s jump in and get that playbook running.

SaaS Marketing Funnel

A user will go through a sequence of actions, events, or stages while choosing to purchase a product or service. In a nutshell, that’s a sales funnel. This allows you, the marketer, to record and chart, track and optimize the process to achieve better results.

A SaaS sales funnel is imperative; unfortunately, it’s not easy. It’s not easy because in sales and marketing, there is no one size fits all template that will magically get you to a better place. Time, patience, and good communication with your team will make for a successful SaaS sales funnel.

In brief, your basic sales funnel will have three levels, top, middle, and bottom. Let’s take a look at these and what their essential functions are.

Tofu, or Top of Funnel

Image of some tofu being simmered in a pot

This is the awareness stage; the user is in research mode, gathering information to make an informed decision. They are not buying; they are investigating. They have a problem, and now they are seeking solutions. For this stage, you’ll want your website to have content that addresses the problem and sets you up as an expert with the answers. Good content for stage one would be:

  • How to guides
  • Explainer videos
  • Informative blog posts
  • Lead Magnet (item or service given away for free to gather contact details)

Keep in mind, the user at this stage is researching and trying to figure their problem out on their own as much as possible; to shoe them toward sales right now would be a costly mistake.

Middle of Funnel

Now the user is looking at specifics. They have gathered information, and they’re focusing on the specific solutions for their problem. Here your content will shift. As the user gets more specific, so will your content. Here you will do well with:

  • Presentations
  • Demonstrations
  • Case Studies

The user is now forming a list of potential suppliers, from which they will then cull. Still, this is not the time for the sales pitch; the user is still in the information-gathering stage of their journey.

Bottom of Funnel

A white wall with graffiti reading Act now, If not us then who? I fnot now then wehn?

The user has reached the bottom of the funnel, which usually means they hit upon one particular solution or supplier. If they are with you, moving forward with you, this is because of the work in the first two funnel phases and because you’ve given them the impression that you’re a thought leader that knows how to deal with their particular issue. Again your content will shift. Now you’re looking at content such as:

  • Pricing
  • Comparison tables
  • Testimonials
  • Reviews

At this point, the user is now ready to engage with sales.

Of course, this is a very simplified model of a SaaS Marketing Funnel. Remember, this is not a one size fits all situation. Do not just follow any model and expect success. You need your own model, one that works for your business and brand, that you’ve arrived at through trial error, data collection, and analysis.

SaaS Marketing Budget

When talking about putting together a marketing budget for your SaaS, once again, we’re going to caution you that a one size fits all approach is probably not wise. In general, the industry base is pretty high for the SaaS industry, and top SaaS companies are spending over 50% on marketing. But, that may not be right for you.

Experts like Lason Lemkin, a highly reputable SaaS developer, remarks that the percentage you spend will depend on the size of your company, stage of growth and will fall anywhere between 10% and 40% of your estimated annual recurring revenue (ARR).

In the simplest examples, if your ARR is $2 million and your goal is $3 million, your growth delta would be $1 million. In this simple scenario, your SaaS marketing budget would be $400,000, which is 40% of your growth delta.

Now some experts advise that the first three years of any SaaS business are crucial as this is when the business establishes a footing in the industry. With this in mind, they counsel over-investing in the market during this time. Some of the major SaaS companies will drop between 80% and 120% of their revenue on marketing.

Again, not one size fits all, and you should examine your company and its boundaries. If you’re a start-up, do not try to compete with the major established SaaS companies right out of the gate. You will fail.

Marketing SaaS Companies

Long hallways with glass doors left and right and wood floor

There are a ton of different marketing channels to navigate in the SaaS industry; you’ll want to do a little research and pick the ones that align most closely with your growth levers and targets and move from there. Here are a few of the top channels, but there are more out there than we have space to print.

Content Marketing

Content marketing involves sharing helpful resources with the hopes of attracting and engaging a target audience. This method looks to bolster trust and increase the likelihood that the users will become loyal customers. This type of content can be:

  • Written, blog posts
  • Visual, infographics, or video
  • Audio, podcasts.
  • A delightful combination of all three

Content marketing can drive more organic traffic to your website, which can drop your customer acquisition costs.

It also allows you to focus on case studies for social proof to help the sales team or gated resources for generating leads at the top of the funnel. Flexibility is one of the main reasons content marketing can be so effective in SaaS.

Direct Mail Marketing

Physical mail, a sweet alternative to just another email. You’re sending actual letters, postcards, or promotional materials to past, current, and potential customers with direct mail. It’s a digital world, and direct mail shakes things up a bit. How many emails do you receive in a day? How many pieces of physical mail, maybe with handwritten messages?

Now, this is a relatively expensive method, so you’ll want to target well and be precise with whom you send to for a maximum return.

Account-Based Marketing

This is highly targeted marketing. Instead of reaching out to everyone, you have a concise number of targets. People or companies that you know will be a good fit for your services.

To be successful, ABM requires coordination across your team and concerted effort across multiple marketing channels such as pay-per-click advertising, retargeting, and email nurturing. You’ll also want a tight connection between sales and marketing for this to be optimal.

Affiliate Marketing

Affiliate marketing is where someone earns a commission by promoting your companies’ products or services. You create custom links for your affiliates to use, track the links that bring in leads, see how many convert to sales, and pay commission based on that.

For SaaS, affiliate marketing offers a couple of opportunities:

  • Work with affiliate marketers to bring your product to their audience
  • Partnership opportunities with other SaaS companies that offer services complementary to your own, so you each earn a commission for referring new customers to each other.

Affiliate marketing is a viable additional marketing channel to explore once you’ve got your core marketing channels working well.

Brand Marketing

A glamor shot of the Mercedes Ebnz logo

This is marketing that encompasses everything: your visual identity, the way your company looks – from logo and font to illustrative style; your brand voice, the way you say or write things, as well as what you say; and the way you differentiate yourself from your competitors.

This is effective for ROI and reminds you that every part of your company touches on brand. Product or service, logo website, all of it is a reflection of your brand. And, even if you don’t ultimately engage in brand marketing, researching it can help you relook at your brand and make changes if it’s not strong enough.

Those are the top five, but, again, there are many, many more and, getting repetitive, but one size does not fit all when it comes to SaaS marketing. Do your research and find the methods that work with your specific needs and business.

Now we’ll delve a bit deeper into a few channels.

SaaS Email Marketing

Email marketing is a powerful tool. It is a form of direct and digital marketing that uses email to promote your businesses and services. It brings awareness of your latest offerings, service changes and keeps your customers and potential customers up to speed on what is happening with your company. It plays a pivotal role in your marketing strategy, boosting brand awareness, building relationships, and maintaining customer engagement.

With a SaaS email marketing campaign, you’re sending emails to people who know what you’re doing. They have a sagacious knowledge of the tactics, tools, and strategies you’re using. So, your approach needs to be more refined and intelligent.

A well-done SaaS email marketing campaign can boost engagement and conversion rates while building a loyal customer base even in the knowledgeable software field. The emphasis here is on well-done. For more in-depth details on how to make your SaaS marketing campaign well-done, take a read on this helpful article before you move ahead.

SaaS Content Marketing

At its most fundamental level, content marketing is the practice of telling a story that inspires an audience. That story can be told through videos, ads, blogs, social media posts, or newsletters. Think about it like this: before the internet, most brands relied on portfolios, billboards, or newspaper ads to communicate their work and services. Content marketing in the current landscape is merely an extension of this practice but can reach a wider audience.

Research has shown that SaaS buyers primarily research services online. This means effective SEO strategy and educational digital content is a crucial aspect of SaaS marketing. Content marketing is a critical element of both promoting your company and establishing brand awareness. While it requires expert planning and slightly time-consuming execution, the benefit is that this kind of marketing doesn’t come off as aggressive to potential customers.

Effective and wide-reaching, this is an excellent channel for your SaaS needs. Want to know more? Of course you do; read this in-depth article and decide if content marketing is the way to go for your SaaS company.

SaaS Video Marketing

black and white image of a  video camera

The power of Youtube, Instagram, and LinkedIn have informed how we use and digest video and pulled the medium from the shadows of silly stunts and self-promotion to a world of compelling options for marketing SaaS companies so that they will thrive and excel.

Video is immediate, concise, and allows the viewer to do other things while they watch, thus giving them the sense of multi-tasking, so they feel that less of their time is being used up.

With the billions of streaming services available and the percentage of people who watch Youtube for fun, a video marketing campaign adds an element of entertainment to the task of learning. Thus, it is easier for most people to digest.

Video effectiveness runs deeper. How deep? Take a look at this compelling article on SaaS video marketing, and you decide if it’s right for your business.

SaaS Marketing Calendar

A content calendar is a perfect way for your SaaS business to provide information to its customers. A content calendar is ideal for developing creative marketing plans to get customers into your sales funnel. Knowing when to post content through social media platforms and on your company blog will keep your business fresh in your customer’s eyes.

When thinking about your SaaS content calendar, keep in mind scheduling content is not the same throughout each social network. Prime posting times will differ between Facebook and LinkedIn. Your marketing team must research the best time to plan content through each marketing channel.

All of your initiatives should be included in a scheduling calendar to stay on track and focused. To help you out, here’s a sample calendar you can download to use as a reference or a starting point to getting your own SaaS content calendar off the ground. (downloadable calendar I presume someone has this)

SaaS Marketing Made Easy

SaaS marketing can be complex and tricky, and it’s easy to go awry. There are a lot of choices to make about what’s suitable for your SaaS business and a bunch of moving parts to keep an eye on. Without being too dramatic, one wrong step can be a waste of time, money and send you back to square one.

There is an easy answer to this conundrum, get help. Thoughtlab has decades of experience with marketing SaaS companies. We have fresh ideas, skills and we listen, so you get a SaaS marketing campaign that isn’t one size fits all. A tailored, researched, and curated campaign that suits your company and your budget.

Contact ThoughtLab and get a free consultation about your SaaS marketing needs, don’t go this alone; get help from experts who know what it takes to build a successful SaaS marketing campaign. Contact ThoughtLab today.