Marketing has changed dramatically in the past 20 years. The internet has continued its explosive growth, mobile web access has become almost universal, and social media has rapidly been integrated into both everyday life and the business world. And for Software as a Service (SaaS) companies, marketing presents an additional layer of challenges.
For marketing success, a solid marketing strategy is a must. Coschedule, for instance, found that:
“Marketers with a documented strategy are 538% more likely to report success than those who don’t.”
Your marketing strategy is the blueprint to help your SaaS business attract leads, convert them to customers, and retain those customers for the long haul.
What is SaaS Marketing?
SaaS marketing is simply the process of marketing SaaS (software as a service) products - any software product that you use online rather than downloading onto your own machine. The SaaS market is booming - sales are expected to reach over $112.8 billion by next year, reports TechRadar - and as a result, SaaS marketing has become a school of marketing in its own right.
In the increasingly competitive environment of healthcare SaaS, making your brand stand out can be a serious headache. We’ve found that one of the most effective ways to help our healthcare software clients in areas like brand recognition and engagement, is a social media strategy.
There’s so much that is encompassed in search engine optimization, or SEO. For a healthcare software solutions provider, you already know how important it is to get your products or services just right for your customers and potential customers.
Software developed specifically for healthcare is an increasingly crowded market, dominated by heavyweights with huge marketing budgets. In this daunting industry, it can feel impossible to stand out from the rest. But with the right marketing strategy in place, even smaller healthcare software companies can attract their audience.
Enhancing Your Inbound Marketing for B2B Software
If you’re responsible for marketing at a Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) company, you may not realize the potential that the inbound marketing methodology holds for your business. If you treat your inbound and content marketing strategies like a buffet, as tech business startups and developers sometimes do, you won’t get the power of marketing as an integrated process.
It's easy to come to the conclusion that companies have different tactics for how they do business, manage their teams, and develop strategy based on their size and their revenue. Some companies, like Epic, openly acknowledge that they spend less time on their marketing strategy than others because they achieved "brandeur" and success early on.
Regardless of how successful or big or small your software company is, having a healthcare marketing strategy will take you much farther than having none at all.
Human interaction is irrelevant during the creation and programming of a new software product. Sure, water cooler chat involves relationships, but you're not out there mingling with the population at large.
It's a very different story once you're ready to launch and sell your product, and if you don't give the power to the people, healthcare software marketing attempts will fall very, very shy of intended projections.
The HBO Game of Thrones website describes this series, "Summers span decades. Winters can last a lifetime. Follow kings and queens, knights and renegades, liars and noblemen as they vie for power..."
Hey! Sounds like another day in the sales and marketing trenches!
Inbound marketing is like dating. Like any prospective date, before your customers can you trust what you have to offer, you must first build a relationship of trust. If you don't, it will cost you - literally.
Belief systems are powerful. They can empower you to become more successful than you've ever been before, or they can hold you back - unconsciously ensuring you repeat the same, ineffective cycles over and over again.
Reading blogs is a smart (and free) way to get better at what you do. Blogs offer loads of topic-specific advice and often provide "learn from my mistakes" or "here's what works for us" styled tidbits that can shift the way you plan and grow your company's next moves.
When their roof leaks, they call a contractor. When the car breaks down, they call their favorite mechanic. In these scenarios there are obvious connections between the customer's immediate problem and a solution. That's not always the case with software marketing.
As software marketers, inbound marketing probably comes somewhat easier to you than it does to person-to-person oriented businesses. Digital technology, the online revolution, computers and gadgets - they are your preferred medium after all. Many of your customers, however, have the opposite experience.
Smartphones and tablets are everywhere. Statista.com says there are currently more than 2 billion smartphones being used around the world, and that number is expected to grow by another 500 million over the next two years.
How many customers do you need?
Everyone? Almost everyone? Enough to generate revenue and (gasp!) become profitable? Can you ever have too many customers?
Inbound software marketing can feel overwhelming. It's like an all-you-can-eat buffet that never quits. There are so many things to keep track of: website design, keywords and phrases, blogging, social media posts, eBooks and whitepapers, offers and the campaigns used to promote them, email marketing, PPC ads... ad nauseam.
Successful software marketing doesn't come cheap. You pay for all kinds of products and services designed to drive business towards your inbound marketing web, including your website design and maintenance, content creation, social media updates, analytics and so on.
Believe it or not, software marketing is not confusing. It's not overwhelming and it's very doable—even if you don't have a degree in marketing. The key is to stop looking at the whole big picture for a change.
"You can't always get what you want."
These seven simple words helped the Rolling Stones sell millions of records and gain worldwide popularity. The phrase became an ear worm in the minds of many. It also revealed a universal truth and life lesson that remains as true today as it was 30 years ago. And with a little bit of tweaking, the words can also guide your software marketing strategy:
Sometimes you're going to have to work hard to understand the "why" behind the "wants."
Software marketing teams frequently—and unintentionally—target the bulk of their content to the bottom of the funnel. Targeting those bottom funnel prospects is easy, right? You get to share all of those everyday facts, stats, acronyms and logistics you celebrate on a regular basis. It's easy to forget that most people don't have a clue about the ins-and-outs of your product.
"The difference between the almost right word and the right word is really a large matter—'tis the difference between the lightning bug and the lightning."
These wise words were written by Mark Twain in 1890, but they may be more important than ever today as companies focus on keywords and search engine optimization to drive their inbound marketing strategies.
You've spent a great deal of time honing your product and/or service into something proven, reliable, and helpful. And since your website is your number one software marketing asset, it should be a reflection of your amazing product. Oftentimes your website is the first impression consumers have with your company and product.
How do you sell what cannot be seen?
That's the question everyone responsible for SaaS marketing has to answer—and it's not always easy.
Marketing SaaS offers a variety of challenges, not the least of which is its lack of a physical presence. It's always changing. Its moniker is strange. And then there is the fact that most consumers don't even know that a SaaS solution to their problem exists.
Why spend any time or money on SaaS marketing if it isn't going to pay off? And yet there are plenty of companies sinking thousands of dollars every month into inbound marketing strategies that don't pay their own way—let alone return a profit.
Sometimes the very best intentions can totally flatline, killing conversion rates and ROI faster than you can say "CPR, STAT!"
Your SaaS marketing team might have fantastic ideas, but if they aren't part of an integrated, multi-faceted inbound approach - they won't get you anywhere, which leads to regrettable wastes of time and money - and an inevitable slowing of the lead-conversion pulse.
Pay Per Click (PPC) campaigns are scary, especially when you consider the average small business owner pays between $9,000 and $10,000 per month for PPC ads.
Take a deep breath and pause for a moment while you soak that in.
That's about $100,000+ per year spent on ads that may or may not work. If they don't, it's $100K in software marketing funds you may as well have used to take your entire team on a Caribbean cruise.
It's so tempting to see those whopper visitor metrics and celebrate. And you should! Those numbers say that your software marketing techniques are paying off....to a point.
On the flip side of that coin, if your page visits are high but conversion rates seem pretty low (less than 1% to 3% of those whopping visits resulted in qualified leads), it means there is some more investigative and content work to do.
Selling software, whether as a service or an innovative solution, is all about two things: website traffic and leads.
Without website traffic, you're unlikely to fill the top of your sales funnel with high-quality leads. Without leads, you're unlikely to sell a lot of software.
One of the most magical things about Claude Monet's works is that the closer you get, the less the paintings make sense. His painting technique was like the ultimate pre-cursor to pixels—using a series of short, splotch-like brush strokes that work together to comprise a completely coherent, integrated, and stunning picture.
Is there anything more frustrating than clicking on an online ad only to be brought to a landing page that delivers... nothing?
If you use pay-per-click ads as part of your overall inbound marketing strategy, you're probably sending people who click on your ads to a landing page, which is essentially a separate webpage designed to elicit a specific action. When it comes to software marketing, that action could range from filtering traffic to targeted areas of your website to learning more about your products to subscribing for blog post updates to actually making a purchase.
When it comes to building an audience for your inbound marketing campaign, it's all about audacity.
You've got to be bold. You've got to use best practices. And whatever you do, you must fight the temptation to take the easy way out—even if thousands of email contacts are only a credit card swipe away. Yes, it can be incredibly tempting to buy an email list to support your software marketing efforts. But it's always a bad idea.
When it comes to email marketing, your efforts are only as good as your email list.
Sure, you can take the easy way out and buy or rent yourself a list. But that's a surefire way to put your IP address in the crosshairs of anti-spam crusaders. The truth is, successfully integrating an email campaign into your comprehensive inbound marketing strategy doesn't typically come to those who take the easy route. No, successful software marketing email campaigns come to those who build their email lists organically, methodically, and over time.
Done well, a software marketing campaign leads hundreds of visitors directly to landing pages. What happens there, however, makes or breaks the ROI. Even the best inbound marketing strategies can fall completely flat if landing pages aren't carefully crafted to drive action.
We get it! You want The Sale! Who doesn't?
Software marketer beware: That wanting of the sale now-now-now can be the bane of an otherwise awesome inbound marketing strategy.
It's been said that necessity is the mother of invention. But innovation's family tree doesn't stop there. Necessity is also responsible for automation, which can be leveraged to create effective software marketing campaigns. Whether you are focused on SaaS or selling niche software applications, automation can make your job easier.
Sometimes the search engine just doesn't offer the best path to results when it comes to lead generation.
This can be especially true (and frustrating) when it comes to software marketing, where products can be highly specialized, expensive, and appealing to a relatively small number of consumers.
Behold the customer: elusive, fickle, and critical to your company's success.
Without customers, businesses cease to exist. Just ask Compaq, RCA, Enron, E.F. Hutton, and Pets.com. Even with good products, robust marketing budgets, and a lot of love from Wall Street, they all failed to build, grow, and galvanize their customer bases.
Some of their brands went stale. Some were offering the right products and services at the wrong time. Others simply didn't have the ability to entice customers to do business with them.
"Show me the money."
This was the battle cry for Tom Cruise's somewhat smarmy character in Jerry Maguire, a romantic comedy about an agent who chases money but ends up finding love.
It's also an apt battle cry for companies who build their revenues on SaaS. Of course, by "money" they mean profitable growth, which is the goal of any SaaS organization. And to find profitable growth, you've got to maximize user adoption.
In the world of software marketing, nothing matters more than your customers. Without them, you've got no subscription revenue, no recurring sources of income, and no business. So you'd better do everything you can to align your SaaS services with what your customers are seeking.
When you achieve SaaS customer alignment, you reap the rewards, which include recurring revenue growth, low acquisition costs, and reduced churn rates.
It's a relatively simple word. It has five letters, one syllable, and will get you at least 10 points in Scrabble.
But you're not playing a board game. You're building a business. And that's why "churn" isn't so simple for you. Its causes are complex. Its effects keep you up at night. It has the power to paralyze your company's growth.
In the beginning, apps were so cool! So exciting! So hip! Now they're old news, making software marketing a wee bit trickier. While apps make life – and access to your website, products, services, et cetera – more convenient, there are well over a million to choose from.
The pressure is on for SaaS professionals when it comes to software marketing. If you're in the business of hip, successful, and high-tech software services and solutions, your customers expect you to be on it when it comes to hip, successful, and high-tech marketing strategies.
Sales goals are a crucial part of any business. Without sales businesses certainly wouldn't survive, and goals are the driving force in ensuring that profits happen. SaaS businesses in particular have their own growth and profitability metrics to factor into the equation.
SaaS marketing is no easy task. You're basically marketing something that has no physical presence and that is constantly changing – not to mention that the average individual isn't familiar with the ins and outs of cloud computing in the first place.
As a result, SaaS businesses have their own unique challenges to consider when developing a marketing plan. Customers are often savvy buyers who can be fanatical promoters with the right SaaS marketing approach. So, how could the nature of this customer base be best leveraged to create an engaged community of users? It’s clear a one-size-fits-all approach is not the answer. Instead, you need a marketing strategy that works well with the essential qualities of SaaS while offering room for personalizing your message.
The Good News: Research by Compass finds that the SaaS (Software-as-a-Service) industry is growing three times faster than software as a whole - and IDC predicts that SaaS-based enterprise will generate revenues upwards of $50 billion dollars by the year 2018, almost doubling SaaS applications market revenues from 2013.
How many times do you check your Inbox, see a newsletter you've subscribed to and delete it before you ever take a peek? Right. So, you know exactly what you don't want email subscribers to do when they see your software marketing emails in their inbox.
When it comes right down to it, the goal of SaaS marketing is the same as any other business marketing... leads. Your marketing team needs high-quality, sales-qualified leads to pass along to the sales team. However, as a SaaS company you do have a few unique oppotunities for marketing in addition to the standard methods.
In many ways SaaS marketing creates its own unique set of challenges that other B2B companies don't face. Debating whether or not to give your product away as a free trial to get someone to buy is not a decision you have to make if you're a commercial engineering firm or a large accounting firm. Marketing your SaaS product means you need to have a clear vision of your product and the need it fills as well as the type of sales model it falls under (self-service, transactional, or enterprise).
What does it take to generate leads and close more sales in the software as a service industry these days? SaaS marketing should focus efforts squarely on a strategy that speaks to marketing personas and uses modern marketing strategy.
For companies offering SaaS solutions, the mission is to make the complex simple.
Harnessing a variety of elements in different formats and places, you create cohesive hosted software solutions that your customers can depend on to simplify tasks and bring efficiency where it is missing without these solutions.