4 Considerations for Your SaaS Marketing Strategy
“Marketing Software as a Service (SaaS) applications can be deceptive.”
That’s what Peter Cohen, Managing Partner at SaaS Marketing Strategy Advisors, wrote in a guest post back in April on the hazards of SaaS marketing. He said that while at first glance, marketing for SaaS might appear to be the same as marketing any other technology, there are certain things about SaaS applications to consider.
So what should companies keep in mind about SaaS marketing? In a recent video series for OpenView Labs, Peter discussed some of the key considerations SaaS companies should make when it comes to developing their overall marketing strategies.
#1. Secrecy is overrated
While many traditional software companies adhere to the practice of having customers sign NDAs or embargos when briefing them on upcoming product enhancements, Peter says this doesn’t really work for the SaaS model.
“We used to hide things for competitive reasons,” he explains. “But with the SaaS model, you’re often bringing enhancements out much more frequently, so any advantage you might have gained from hiding these forthcoming features you won’t gain very much within the SaaS model.”
He goes on to say that rather than buying a box full of features where what you see is what you get, SaaS customers are in many ways purchasing the promise of new capabilities being delivered over the course of their subscriptions.
“You’re actually asking [customers] to go on a journey with you,” Peter explains. ”If you want people to go on a journey with you, it usually makes sense to show them where you’re going.”
For this reason, he says SaaS companies should do away with the embargos of the past and not be afraid to share their product road maps with their customers.
#2. Proximity to market is important
“Technology companies typically care a lot about time to market,” says Peter. “There’s something similar to this that’s more specific to SaaS companies, which I call proximity to market.”
The concept of proximity to market has two facets. The first, he explains, is that because their applications are hosted, SaaS companies have the ability to see what their customers are doing with their products.
“It’s the equivalent of a product manager being able to look over the shoulder of a user – only for all of their users,” Peter says, with the advantage being that companies can take that information to improve and enhance their solutions.
The second proximity advantage of SaaS companies, he explains, is that not only can they see what their customers are doing, but they can also respond to them directly. Together, these capabilities tend to give SaaS solutions a leg-up on traditional on-premise competitors.
#3. Don’t underfund your program
While it’s perfectly normal for most SaaS companies to worry about over-spending on customer acquisition, Peter says that underfunding your sales and marketing programs can be just as dangerous.
“Think about what you’re asking them to do. You’re asking them to build visibility, generate leads, convert those leads into opportunities, close sales, and then retain those customers ,” he says. “There’s a lot of heavy lifting, and that takes money.”
Of course, this doesn’t mean that SaaS companies should go crazy with spending. But Peter says that once an effective customer acquisition program is in place, that’s when it’s most important to have the courage and dedication to fund it appropriately.
“There’s no point in building a Ferrari just to leave it in your garage,” he adds.
#4. Remember – Free is NOT a marketing strategy
While many SaaS-based companies has found success with offering free trials of paired down versions of their software at no initial cost, Peter says that “free” is still not always the best way to get your foot in the door.
“Particularly if it’s an enterprise application – some solution that you’re going to deploy across the company – the ‘free’ part of it may not be such an appealing feature,” he says.
Peter explains that for customers interested in an enterprise product, factors like ease of use and remote access are often more important than the potential to save a few bucks on a free trial.
For more on developing your company’s marketing strategy, check out our Market Aspirations and Strategies topic page.
With only lagging metrics in their toolset, customer success leaders can’t really drive strategy at the executive level. Here’s Chris Hicken, former president at UserTesting, on how to change that.