According to Gartner, the global SaaS market is forecasted to reach $243.9 billion in 2024, up from $205.2 billion in 2023. This projected exponential growth shows immense potential, but it also highlights a challenge for startups and newcomers to the market. How can they stand out amongst goliath competitors, and cut through the noise to resonate with target audiences?
In this article, I’ll share 12 marketing strategies tailored specifically for SaaS startups aiming to thrive, along with essential steps for creating your own and a few marketing strategy software recommendations that can help you do it.
12 Marketing Strategies For Startups To Find Success
According to an article written by Milinda Perera on LinkedIn, Marketing is absolutely crucial to startup success. He explains, “As a new company entering a competitive industry, startups need to prioritize their marketing efforts in order to effectively promote their products or services and attract customers.”
Here are 12 popular strategies specifically curated for the SaaS sector:
1. Create FOMO with an Exclusive Beta
Harness the power of exclusivity by offering an exclusive beta program for your SaaS product. This not only generates anticipation and buzz but also fosters a sense of privilege among early adopters.
Slack employed this strategy with remarkable success when it first launched. By initially rolling out as an invite-only platform, they generated a buzz that turned into a massive user base years later. This limited access not only created a sense of exclusivity but also allowed Slack to refine its product based on early user feedback, laying the groundwork for long-term success.
2. Develop a Referral Marketing Program
Leverage the satisfied customer base of your SaaS product by instituting a referral marketing program. Dropbox serves as a prime example of how this strategy can fuel growth as it incentivizes users to refer friends and colleagues.
Dropbox achieved exponential user acquisition and today their strategy is still seen as a best-case example. The referral program not only expanded its user base but also fostered a community of advocates who vouched for the product's effectiveness. This essentially digitized word-of-mouth marketing remains a solid approach for SaaS businesses.
3. Try Out Influencer Marketing Partnerships
Incorporate influencer marketing into your strategy to tap into the credibility and reach of influencers within the SaaS community. Back in the day, when Canva first launched, it partnered with Guy Kawasaki, a renowned Silicon Valley venture capitalist and author, to promote its platform.
At the time, Kawasaki created a series of videos and blog posts demonstrating how he uses Canva to create his own marketing materials, which in turn inspired others to try the platform. This campaign was successful in generating awareness of Canva among Kawasaki's large following of entrepreneurs and business professionals.
4. Host a Contest or Giveaway
Engage your SaaS target audience by organizing contests or giveaways that spotlight the unique value and propositions of your product. In an instance of this, Grammarly used a giveaway approach to promote its premium plan.
The company gave away a year of free premium access to Grammarly to anyone who tweeted about the contest using a specific hashtag. This giveaway was very successful, and it helped Grammarly to generate a lot of buzz and acquire new users.
5. Attend Trade Shows to Network
Participate in industry trade shows and MarTech conferences to establish a physical presence within the SaaS community. Interacting face-to-face can create lasting impressions, and Slack is one company that knows this well.
Recently, Slack adjusted their approach in marketing by shifting to attending more in real life events, bringing the online experience offline. In the past year, they have prioritized attending tentpole events rather than spending on paid social as they saw greater benefits.
6. Guest Post on a Blog or Podcast
Position your startup as a thought leader by contributing guest posts to influential blogs, publishing content on LinkedIn, or participating in relevant podcasts. Neil Patel, a renowned digital marketing expert, utilized guest posting, search engine optimization (SEO), and backlinks to amplify his reach and establish authority in the SaaS domain.
By sharing valuable insights and relevant content that highlights expertise on other platforms and channels, you can enhance your brand's visibility and credibility within the industry, while expanding your network. It certainly worked for Neil Patel!
7. Get PR Rolling with a Publication Feature
Secure coverage in reputable publications to boost your startup's credibility and reputation. Salesforce does this effectively as they have a large public relations team that generates regular coverage in major publications. Salesforce also hosts its own annual conference, Dreamforce, which is one of the largest tech conferences in the world, gaining natural buzz.
8. Reach Out to Forums and Communities
Engage with SaaS forums and online communities frequented by your target audience. Actively participate in discussions, address queries, and showcase your expertise.
Intercom, a customer messaging platform, grew its user base by actively engaging in forums relevant to its industry, positioning the product as a valuable solution for community members seeking communication solutions.
9. Troll Social Media to Convert Competitor Customers
Leverage social media marketing and use monitoring or social listening tools to identify dissatisfied potential customers of your competitors and turn them into your fans. Use various social media platforms like Twitter/X or TikTok to engage with this audience strategically. This creates an opportunity for you to showcase how your SaaS product addresses their pain points more effectively.
10. Bribe New Customers with a Gift with Purchase
Encourage trial and conversion by offering an enticing gift or exclusive feature to new customers once they sign up as a customer. HubSpot, in its early stages, offered a suite of marketing tools for free, incentivizing users to explore the platform's capabilities. This strategy not only attracts initial users but also provides an opportunity to showcase the value of your complete SaaS offering.
11. Link Your Product with a Social Cause
Align your SaaS brand with relevant social causes that resonate with socially conscious consumers. There are brands out there, such as Salesforce, who dedicate 1% of product, equity, and employee time to charitable causes for example. This not only establishes a positive brand image in the eyes of the consumer but it also attracts customers who value companies committed to making a positive impact.
12. Create Totally Different, Buzzworthy Content
Differentiate your SaaS startup by producing various types of content that are innovative and attention-grabbing. Spotify achieves this with its annual "Spotify Wrapped" campaign, presenting user data in a visually appealing and shareable format. This type of content not only sets your brand apart but also positions your startup as a trendsetter in the SaaS landscape.
Why Is Having A Specific Marketing Strategy Important?
Having a clear and defined marketing strategy is critical for any startup, but with that immense rise in the market forecasted for 2024, it’s especially true for those entering this competitive SaaS space. With so many companies vying for the same b2b customers' attention and dollars, failing to have a specific go-to-market plan for new business almost guarantees getting lost in the noise.
When you tailor a marketing strategy with the unique characteristics of the product offering, buyer personas (your ideal customer), and competitive landscape, you have a better chance of effectively differentiating yourself from the competition and driving brand awareness.
Ultimately, this enables you to see improved ROI and results, including more relevant traffic, higher-quality leads, and faster deal cycles.
Essential Steps For Creating Your Marketing Strategy
Before you can dive into implementing one of the marketing strategies I listed above, there are five crucial steps you need to take to plan the most effective approach for your business:
1. Set Smart Goals
You must always start your strategy planning by establishing SMART goals–these are:
This popular framework helps you stay focused and motivated while establishing clear and attainable targets.
For example, a SMART goal can look like this: increase free trial sign-ups by 20% within the next quarter. Not only does this provide a clear metric to reach but it also establishes a time frame for when you want to attain it.
2. Conduct Market Research
Once you’ve outlined your SMART goals, you can then begin to better understand the competitive landscape. A good framework for this step is the SWOT analysis, where you can conduct research to pinpoint the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats of your business and the industry.
In this step, you can utilize tools such as surveys, competitor analysis, and industry reports to gather insights that will form your strategy.
3. Know Your Target Audience
After you’ve taken the time to do market research, the next phase of research requires you to truly get to understand your target audience. Create detailed buyer personas that inform not only the demographics of your target market but also their needs, behaviors, and challenges. This knowledge will inform your marketing content, ensuring that what you publish will resonate with the specific needs of your audience.
4. Determine a Marketing Budget
Next, you’ll need to think about allocating resources strategically by establishing a well-defined marketing budget and timeline. Analyze the cost-effectiveness of various marketing channels and tactics that make sense for your business goals and target audience.
5. Select Your Marketing Tactics
Lastly, once you’ve figured out the approach, you can then choose the most appropriate marketing tactics based on your goals, audience, and budget.
Whether it's through b2b influencer marketing, content marketing, email marketing, social media advertising, search engine marketing, or brand partnerships, aligning your tactics with your overarching strategy is essential.
Once you’ve selected your marketing tactics and developed a marketing plan, you can begin to think about implementation and selecting the best marketing software to bring your strategy to life.
Marketing Strategy Software
Of course, there is software available to help you plan your marketing strategy. Below is a list of some vetted tools marketing teams can use to plan, create, execute, track, and analyze the events and activities of a marketing campaign.
Staying On The Path To Success
The trajectory to success is shaped by a dynamic startup marketing strategy that is customer-centric and has a commitment to continual improvement. From exclusive betas and influencer partnerships to content marketing and PR, the diverse array of marketing tactics outlined here offers a roadmap for CMOs to tailor their strategies to effectively meet their unique challenges.
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