When I started as a rookie marketer at SaaS startup Scoro two years ago, I had no digital marketing experience whatsoever.
All I had done was feasting on marketing blogs and podcasts for the previous two months. I was so into digital marketing that I thought I knew everything.fa
As I soon found out, the SaaS marketing world turned out to be a lot more versatile and exciting than I’d thought.
But you know what… It all worked out.
Better than my 21-year-old self could possibly have imagined.
During my last two years as the Digital Marketing Manager at Scoro, we’ve:
- Increased the number of monthly leads by over 300%
- Built our blog readership from 1.6k to 32k monthly organic visitors
- Published tens of new landing pages and hundreds of ads
- Grown into a team of full-stack marketers
However, I’ve got some big news.
Today is my very last day working as the Digital Marketing Manager at Scoro.
Looking back, I wanted to share the key learnings on SaaS marketing that I’ve discovered on this two-year journey, 35 of them to be exact.
SaaS marketing strategy – key learnings
When I joined my first SaaS startup two years ago, there was no all-encompassing marketing strategy in place.
So we started by…
- Defining our buyer personas
- Finding out who’s our high expectation customer – the people who enjoy your product’s most complex and differentiating benefits
- Thinking what are our potential customers’ pain points that our product could solve
SaaS Marketing Lesson #1:
Find your High Expectation Customer
There’s an amazing article on the High Expectation Customer by Julie Supan who’s worked for Airbnb and Dropbox.
If you’re unsure how to answer the following questions, chances are that you’re struggling to position your SaaS product in the market.
SaaS Marketing Lesson #2:
Keep true to your target audience = don’t try to sell to everyone.
Even though we had defined our buyer personas, it sometimes happened that our marketing activities got derailed and we were trying to serve a larger audience than we should have.
This led to delivering low-quality leads to the sales team. Fortunately, in the quickly adaptive environment of a SaaS startup, we were able to quickly recover.
Seriously – the more we worked on defining our target audience, the higher ROI we saw across all marketing channels.
SaaS Marketing Lesson #3:
You absolutely must know your UVP and mission statement
Unique Value Proposition (UVP) is a brief statement that describes your product’s benefit to the customer while differentiating you from your competition.
That’s the utmost reason why anyone should buy your SaaS product.
You should also be clearly aware of why your startup exists in the first place.
Test your mission statement by following this framework – do you know your target customer, your product’s benefits, and the key differentiating element?
Translated into a mission statement, the result will look like this:
If you’re unable to clearly identify your core value offer, you’re going to struggle when developing future marketing messages and organizing big campaigns.
Moreover, your entire team will feel demotivated when working without a clear mission.
SaaS Marketing Lesson #4:
Keep true to your mission statement
Once you’ve set your SaaS company’s mission statement, you should actually act by it.
Offering potential customers a big discounts or trying to keep employees happy with nice office perks isn’t going to cut it.
Today, with tens of thousands of SaaS products in the market, the key differentiator isn’t your product’s features, it’s your branding and mission.
You should regularly ask “Why does our company exist other than to make money?” – knowing the answer will also make it easier to communicate your product’s value to the user.
SaaS Marketing Lesson #5:
It’s all about growth
Looking back at the past 24 months, I wish I’d focused even more on growth. I feel like we occasionally got stuck in doing the same things over and over again just because they worked.
However, the biggest increase in our marketing results has come from constant optimization and new ventures.
Key takeaway: Be constantly on the lookout of new ideas to improve your lead flow and increase conversion rates.
SaaS Marketing Lesson #6:
Your growth plan needs to include clear actions, not just nice numbers
It’s not sufficient to just write down the anticipated numbers, you also need to know how to achieve this growth.
The way I’d set up a SaaS marketing strategy is by setting up growth goals, e.g. 10% growth every month and then contemplating how this growth will be achieved.
The growth plan should be created by a large team of people (from marketing, sales, product teams), each contributing their knowledge and ideas.
SaaS Marketing Lesson #7:
There are multiple ways to increase sales
Here’s a graph by KlientBoost, illustrating how every stage of your SaaS conversion funnel is converting at a different rate.
In the end, only a handful of website visitors become paying customers.
If you want to grow your MRR by, let’s say, 10% every month, you have two options:
- Optimize the conversion rates of your conversion funnel stages
- Get more people into your conversion funnel
It’s up to you to choose which path you prefer (usually, it’s the combination of both).
However, the choice should be intentional and every action you take driven by your SaaS company’s long-term marketing strategy.
SaaS Marketing Lesson #8:
Failure = Winning
There’s a simple correlation between the failings and gains in your marketing team’s work.
The more you fail, the more you’ll also grow. That’s because you’ll be testing a significantly larger number of new tactics.
Failure = Testing = Winning
While many of our ideas didn’t work out as expected and cost us some leads and budgets, I’m glad that we tried.
Many experiments also turned out to be great success and helped us increase the number of monthly leads (and sales results).
SaaS Marketing Lesson #9:
Don’t optimize for leads. Optimize for growth.
Speaking of results and sales, you should be aware that new leads do not necessarily translate into more sales.
Leads ≠ Sales
You can get thousands of low-quality leads, but if none of them converts into paying customers, you’ll soon be out of business.
When I started managing Scoro’s AdWords account and working with PPC agencies, I discovered we were targeting lots of keywords irrelevant to our product.
While these keywords brought in leads at acceptable CPA (cost per acquisition), they never ever converted into buyers.
After we cleaned up our campaigns, we started getting more qualified leads.
Key takeaway: Measure the number of qualified leads you get from every marketing channel, not just the overall lead count.
SaaS Marketing Lesson #10:
Track the right metrics
The more I’ve spoken with successful SaaS marketers, the more I’ve grasped the importance of tracking the right marketing metrics.
So what are the right SaaS marketing metrics you should track?
I would suggest that you select 3-5 key marketing metrics that you use for decision-making and only then build a list of supporting metrics.
These 3-5 key metrics should be directly tied to your company’s growth, thereby they could be:
- Increase in MRR
- Cost per acquisition per paying customer
- Average lifetime value
The CPA per lead could be a secondary metric that you use to evaluate the performance of marketing campaigns.
Of course, your SaaS metrics really depend on the product you’re selling. Maybe none of the metrics I just mentioned makes any sense with your particular strategy.
SaaS Marketing Lesson #11:
Trust in your LTV
Until recently, I had never thought of the customer lifetime value as a key metric to SaaS marketing strategy.
However, your average users’ LTV can easily predict how much you should be willing to pay for leads and paid customers.
You should opt for the CPA to be 3 times lower than the LTV, meaning for every dollar you put in your SaaS machine you’re getting 3 out.
However, I’ve seen many SaaS companies struggling with this paradox: Once they find a marketing channel with a positive ROI, they keep limiting their budgets.
SaaS Marketing Lesson #12:
Once you’ve found the perfect growth channel, use it to its full potential
Most of the successful SaaS marketers I’ve talked with aim to find marketing channels with a positive ROI and then use them to their maximum capacity.
For example, if the avg. CPA for a paid customer on AdWords is $1,2k and the LTV of that customer is 10k, it would make sense to extend your marketing budget as much as possible to grow faster.
Once you’ve found a profitable marketing channel, increase the resources spent on it.
SaaS Marketing Lesson #13:
Segment your LTV by marketing channels
Not all of your SaaS marketing channels bring identical leads.
You can conduct an analysis on different lead segments and see what’s the average LTV across different channels, countries, and other customer segments.
You’ll find it a lot easier to evaluate whether a marketing channel has a positive or negative ROI.
You’ll also avoid keeping some poorly performing campaigns running and won’t close the ones with a high potential due to generalizing.
SaaS Marketing Lesson #14:
Know when to say “We tried but failed”
Working in SaaS marketing has also taught me a couple of lessons about sunk costs.
In terms of marketing, a sunk cost is a cost that has already been incurred and cannot be recovered. And often, it makes us want to keep pushing a failing marketing incentive in the hopes of it starting to work.
In SaaS marketing, it’s especially important that you notice the budget-draining projects early on, before they exhaust your budgets and resources.
Train yourself to be the wake-up-call for the entire marketing team whenever it happens.
Here’s an easy litmus test for uncovering low-performing projects.
Ask your team: “If we could devote our resources (time and budget) on a different marketing project, would we?”
If you’re able to name some ideas with a bigger potential, that’s where you should focus.
SaaS Marketing Lesson #15:
Prioritize based on numbers and data
A couple of days ago, I read a blog article by Peep Laja where he mentioned that many marketers prioritize their website A/B tests by the ease of implementation, not the possible gains.
Let me repeat it…
Often, marketers choose their projects by the ease of implementation, completely ignoring the data.
Guilty as charged.
Where you spend your time and resources should be directed by data, not your gut feeling or comfort zone.
SaaS Marketing Lesson #16:
Set up a strong lead tracking system
If I could turn back time, I’d travel back to 2015 and set up a comprehensive lead tracking framework.
Customers have so many possible touching points with your ads/content and take so many different actions before converting.
And if you’re unable to track all of it, you’ll have no idea of what actually works.
So looking back, I’d draw up a customer journey map and start using tools like HubSpot, Mixpanel, and Kissmetrics in the early phases of SaaS marketing.
Using those tools is crucial to understanding how our leads and customers interact with your ads, content, and the SaaS product.
Content marketing – key learnings
When I joined Scoro, one of my first tasks was to create a content marketing strategy and start publishing articles that would translate into sales.
In the past 20 months, we’ve grown our blog’s organic traffic from 1.6k monthly visitors to 32k visitors/month.
That’s a 1,843% growth.
However, the fastest growth has happened in the past 11 months while we grew our traffic from 6k/month to 31k/month.
In fact, I wrote an in-depth article on the SEO hacks and content marketing tips we used, you can read it here: From 1.6k to 31k Monthly Blog Visitors in 20 Months – How We Did It
So how did we achieve the nearly 2,000% growth?
And how can you replicate the success in your SaaS startup’s blog?
SaaS Marketing Lesson #17:
Give instead of taking
As a general rule, SaaS companies aren’t non-profits.
This means that every presentation, gift or blog article ever made should translate into sales.
That’s true, but don’t take it literally.
Before you can take, you should learn to give.
So instead of contemplating your masterplan on how to get everyone buying your product…
Think instead how you could provide value to your target audience.
SaaS Marketing Lesson #18:
Don’t publish content for the sake of publishing
WordPress users produce about 84.3 million new posts and 41.8 million new comments every month.
The top 1% of these posts are read by 99% of the readers.
If your goal is to create content that’s engaging people and will ultimately help to increase your SaaS product sales, you can’t just publish any content.
When I joined Scoro, the company was buying articles from an agency in the US. These articles were a content marketer’s nightmare – 600 words long texts lacking any actionable advice.
As you may have guessed, nobody read nor shared those articles.
Only after we started creating high-quality and SEO-aware content, did the leads start to pour in.
SaaS Marketing Lesson #19:
“Quality vs. Quantity” is a wrong approach
After managing Scoro’s content marketing strategy for two years, I’ve learned that while consistency is the key to success, so is the quality of the articles.
So what are you to do: Choose the quality over quantity or vice versa?
Actually, you should aim for quality and quantity.
When given a choice – take both.
After publishing 2 articles per week for a short period of time, we decided to cut it back to 1 article/week and focus on publishing content with higher value while maintaining the weekly schedule.
SaaS Marketing Lesson #20:
Awesome content will get the attention it deserves
I’ve heard so many marketers complain “We’re publishing high-value content, but people just won’t find nor read it.”
That’s so untrue!
Take this blog you’re currently reading. It’s only 4-5 months old. However, all the previous three articles have been widely shared and read.
How? – By being packed with value.
Of course, there are the “superstar” blogs that have accumulated large readerships and can now enjoy even their mediocre articles getting thousands of shares.
And of course, it also depends on luck to some extent – will people notice and pick up your articles.
However, if you’re just starting out, you need to work hard on writing content that’s on par with the very best articles on a similar topic.
That’s the only surefire road to building a popular blog.
SaaS Marketing Lesson #21:
Publish original content & research
While high-quality content can help build an engaged audience and expand your marketing funnel, it’s the original research that can bring you near-magical results. ✨
Here’s an example by Ahrefs: an article based on original research and measuring how much time it takes to start ranking well on Google.
High-quality and actionable research articles get picked up by other industry blogs and will become widely shared.
That’s exactly the kind of attention you need on your SaaS product.
Now that you’re all excited about conducting original research and publishing an epic blog article, I’d also like you to consider the next rule…
SaaS Marketing Lesson #21:
Measure your content marketing ROI
The ROI of content marketing is different from say, paid advertising, in that it’s not as clearly measurable.
Content marketing can be perceived as a top-of-the-funnel tactic that’s attracting new audiences without necessarily converting them into leads.
And that’s just fine.
If you can prove that content marketing is supporting your marketing funnel and eventually, sales, it’s definitely worth pursuing.
However, I’m a lot more sceptical about eBooks, webinars, Twitter chats, and other similar large-large content formats.
I’m not saying they’re not working, especially if you’re an established company with a large marketing team, like Marketo.
However, when we calculated the benefits we got from publishing and promoting eBooks and thought what else all those resources could have brought us in terms of leads and sales, it was a lousy deal.
As eBooks didn’t have a positive ROI in the case of our SaaS marketing strategy, we focused our time and effort on other activities with a higher ROI.
SaaS Marketing Lesson #22:
Do guest blogging only if you have a clear goal
You’ve probably heard all the marketing influencers tell that you should be guest blogging to acquire high-quality backlinks and get more website traffic.
Well, that’s only halfway true.
While guest blogging can certainly help you get quality backlinks, it isn’t necessarily worth your time.
For 10 hours of your marketing team’s time, what has more value:
- Writing a top-notch guest blog post for a popular blog and giving away all your rights to the content.
- Writing a 10x SEO-optimized article for your own blog, getting all the branding benefits, and later thousands of organic visitors.
Tim Soulo has written guest posts for tens of marketing blogs.
In his experience, writing a guest post in a top blog brings you about 100 website clicks.
The key takeaway here is that you shouldn’t be writing guest posts for the sake of driving traffic to your website.
Rather, write guest articles to establish your brand as an industry expert and build relationships.
SaaS Marketing Lesson #23:
Build relationships with other blogs
There’s another awesome benefit to guest posting that you could aim for: the relationships you build.
When we got started with Facebook advertising, I wrote a guest post on AdEspresso’s blog titled 6 Facebook Advertising Hacks I Wish We Had Known Before Launching Our First Campaign
The collaboration didn’t end there.
They asked me to become a regular contributor, which in turn led to new guest contributions in the top marketing blogs such as:
Later, I was able to include Scoro’s marketing tactics as examples in my articles, getting us lots of quality backlinks.
SaaS Marketing Lesson #24:
Build relationships with other SaaS brands
If you take a good look at brands and people featured in blog articles, they’re often the same across the web.
That’s because those people and brands have built relationships with each other.
For example, my latest article in this blog featured SaaS marketing hacks. When compiling the article, I also interviewed some successful SaaS marketers.
After I’d published the article, those marketers also helped to promote it and shared the article with their audience.
Here’s another example of collaboration of Venngage, Aggregate blog, and Copy Hackers – we partnered on an infographic and blog article.
If you’d like to read more about how we grew Scoro blog’s organic traffic and which SEO tactics we applied, read this article: From 1.6k to 32k Monthly Blog Visitors in 20 Months – How We Did It
Paid advertising – key learnings
Paid advertising is an integral part of most SaaS marketing strategies.
Even if you’re lucky to be driving sales with “free” marketing activities such as content marketing and social media marketing, you can use the paid ads to accelerate your SaaS startup’s growth.
At Scoro, we focused mainly on two PPC channels – Facebook and Google AdWords – and combined them with some smaller paid lead sources (review sites, display ads, LinkedIn ads, etc.)
Paving our way to a solid PPC strategy wasn’t always the easiest challenge.
Luckily, we also had many small victories on our journey that made us want to test even more new ideas.
However, it wasn’t always as sunny in the PPC land.
When we got started with Facebook advertising, we failed to attract any new leads.
Because we were targeting a cold audience and trying them to sign up for a free product trial right off the bat.
SaaS Marketing Lesson #25:
Most people don’t care about your salesy ads
The cold hard truth about your SaaS product is that most people just don’t care enough to buy it.
If you set up a Facebook ads campaign targeting a Saved Facebook audience (based on people’s location interests), and show them an ad like this…
Most people will be like…
They’ll never click on your ad nor sign up for the free trial you’re offering.
That’s because you’re serving your sales pitch too early in the sales funnel, asking for too big a commitment.
In the Awareness stage of your marketing funnel, focus on educating and helping your target audience instead of jumping right on the sales pitch.
Read more tips and hacks in this guide on SaaS Facebook advertising.
SaaS Marketing Lesson #26:
Target sales messages on remarketing audiences
One of the a-ha moments we had regarding our SaaS startup’s paid advertising happened when I set up our first segmented retargeting campaigns on Facebook.
To the people who had previously visited our landing pages about Project Management Software, this Facebook ad made a lot more sense:
When delivering sales messages to Facebook Custom Audiences of past website visitors, we finally started to see some positive results.
Key takeaway: Start by attracting cold audiences with soft-sell ads and organic reach. Then, create paid remarketing campaigns targeting people that already know about your SaaS product.
SaaS Marketing Lesson #27:
Segment your remarketing audiences
Once we had set up our Facebook remarketing campaigns, we started looking for ways to optimize them.
One of the best ideas we had was to segment our website visitors into several groups.
This way, we were able to create more personalized marketing messages, depending on which exact landing page our audience members had visited.
Instead of delivering the same offer to everyone who had visited our website in the past 30 days, we only targeted our ads on the visitors of specific landing pages and blog articles – the people who were most likely to start a free trial.
As a result, our average Facebook marketing CPA decreased by 80% while the number of total conversions grew.
SaaS Marketing Lesson #28:
Good design is paramount
In the past 12 months, I’ve spent a lot of time on creating, managing, and optimizing both Facebook ad and AdWords campaigns.
One key thing I’ve learned is that design matters. Big time.
We’ve tested tens of different Facebook ad designs as that’s one of the key elements that makes the biggest difference in Facebook campaigns’ performance.
Learning to design basic visualizations isn’t as difficult as you might think. Start with a tutorial of Illustrator or Sketch and soon, you’ll be able to create all your SaaS company’s ad designs.
If you’d like to learn more about A/B testing your ads, see this guide on Facebook ad testing.
SaaS Marketing Lesson #29:
Don’t leave the PPC strategy (entirely) up to your marketing agency
Having worked with several PPC agencies, here’s what I think:
No PPC agency is as invested in your SaaS company’s growth as you are. That’s simply not possible.
Yet even though the agencies aren’t always perfect and answering your emails as often as you’d like, you still need them.
It’s a tough relationship.
95% of the time, hiring a PPC agency won’t immediately bring the results you’re hoping for.
Now, the way I imagine the perfect SaaS-agency relationship goes like this:
- Your in-house team sets the long-term and monthly PPC strategy
- Your PPC agency sets up the ad campaigns (writes the ad copy, designs ads, sets up the campaign structure)
- Your in-house team regularly reviews the paid ad campaigns and asks for small changes and optimization
Key takeaway: Even when working with world-class PPC agencies, you should still review your ad campaigns on a regular basis and contribute new ideas for improvement.
SaaS Marketing Lesson #30:
Keep testing new (and old) marketing channels
Even though you’ve found your top-performing marketing channels, there may be even better ones out there.
Moreover, the paid advertising channels that didn’t work in the first place could deliver good results the second time you try.
Set up a dedicated monthly “testing budget” for experimenting with new marketing channels. There’s a chance you’ll uncover a hidden gem.
SaaS marketing– general learnings
SaaS Marketing Lesson #31:
Don’t let your growth slow down
Once you’re in the frenzy of month-over-month growth, do your best not to let it slow down.
Trust me, it will be hard to get back on the train later.
Be constantly on the lookout for small tweaks and improvements that either bring more people to your marketing funnel or help to increase the conversion rate at different stages of the funnel.
However, remember that if you write month-over-month growth into your marketing strategy, you also need to add how you’re going to do it.
SaaS Marketing Lesson #32:
Keep your eyes on the road instead of competition
Scoro is a project management solution and guess what… There are hundreds of different project management tools out there.
However, none of these tools does all the exact same things as Scoro.
While you might feel the urge to copy your top-performing competitors… You should work in proactive mode rather than reactive.
Adjusting your goals and marketing tactics by perceiving your competition will get you derailed quickly.
There’s no single SaaS product in the world that would have 100% matching audience and solution with yours.
Or if there is, maybe you should rethink your UVP (unique value proposition).
SaaS Marketing Lesson #33:
Listen to your customers
When marketing a SaaS product, it’s incredibly easy to get caught up in the industry jargon and emphasize the wrong product benefits.
That’s why you should devote at least 5% of your time on learning what your customers think, how the interact with your product, and what are their core problems.
Yes, you really should reach out to 5-10 customers every three months and conduct survey in the meantime. You could also listen to the sales calls, read customer support emails, and check analytics to see how people use your product.
Listening to your customers helps to:
- Realize you product’s top benefits
- Improve your marketing messages
- Uncover missing / unnecessary features
- Discover how to keep your customers happier
- Improve your product’s UX
- Reduce churn
SaaS Marketing Lesson #34:
Think of your customers as people, not numbers
You sign up for a free SaaS product trial and for the next 12 months, your inbox is going to be flooded with their marketing emails.
More emails and push notifications ≠ more customers
Don’t forget that your leads are real people and respect them by sending them only the marketing messages that are truly relevant to them.
A couple of lead nurturing emails is all good, but if you lock them into your marketing funnel forever, sending them irrelevant content every month, you could damage your brand instead of getting more customers.
Respecting your customers also applies to every other aspect of your SaaS strategy – sales calls, support emails, product developement – don’t forget it’s the customer you’re building the SaaS product for.
SaaS Marketing Lesson #35:
Keep reading and learning
When interviewing new potential marketing team members, I always ask what blogs and magazines they like to read.
That’s one of the key indicators whether a person’s passionate about marketing.
There are so many insightful articles and resources on SaaS marketing. Just to name a few:
Intercom on Starting Up eBook by Intercom
The Beginner’s Guide to SaaS Conversion Optimization by ConversionXL
The entire blog of First Round Review by First Round
The best SaaS newsletter I’ve seen this far by Hiten Shah
If you’re managing a SaaS marketing team, you could schedule the “reading hours” to every second Friday and make it a habit to share new tactics and ideas with the team.
As I said at the beginning of this article, I’ll be leaving Scoro as of June.
It’s both sad and exciting to be leaving.
I’m planning to take a looong vacation, go travelling, and devote even more time to reading and learning. I’ll also be working on some freelance projects.
In the long term… Who knows…