What Is SaaS Marketing? Guide for 2021

SaaS, or Software as a Service, is a type of software that’s hosted on the cloud and you rent it as opposed to buying it.

Instead of buying and installing software on your own devices, you simply pay a monthly subscription and gain access to the SaaS tool via the internet.

As such, SaaS marketing is a type of marketing used to promote SaaS products online, drive traffic, and acquire new users.

And yes - marketing a SaaS business IS different from conventional marketing.

Do YOU own a SaaS business? Want to learn how to market it?

You’ve come to the right place!

Read on to learn:

So, let’s dive right in, starting with:

SaaS Marketing VS Conventional Marketing - What’s the Difference?

There are a ton of differences between SaaS marketing and conventional marketing, the most notable ones being:

SaaS Marketing Conventional Marketing
Focus SaaS marketing mainly happens online. Since you’re selling an online product, it’s just simpler and more cost-effective to do your marketing online, too. Conventional marketing is usually a mix of offline and online marketing.
Timeframe SaaS marketing doesn’t end when you acquire a new customer - you don’t want your customers to just use your product for a month and then bail. Once you acquire a new user, you want to keep them subscribed for as long as possible. With conventional marketing, you don’t have to worry about what your customers do once you make the sale.
Competition SaaS marketing can be extremely competitive depending on the niche. The biggest SaaS companies create amazing products which are just very hard to beat/out-market. Conventional marketing is less competitive, but of course, it also depends on the niche.
Goals SaaS marketing has 2 main goals: drive new users to the platform and keep them subscribed for as long as possible. Conventional marketing can have a ton of different goals, like generating brand awareness, traffic, selling a single product, upselling a different product, etc.

SaaS Marketing Strategy (That Works)

Before you get started with marketing your SaaS business, you need a solid SaaS marketing strategy.

Yes, tactics and marketing channels are important (and we’ll cover both in a bit), but without the right SaaS marketing strategy as a foundation, you’re unlikely to see spectacular results.

At Apollo Digital, we like to use the Bullseye Framework (concept by Gabriel Weinberg) as a foundation for any of our SaaS marketing strategies.

Here’s how this works:

Step #1. Brainstorm Tactics & Channels

Sit down with your SaaS marketing team and create a list of all channels you want to try/focus on. Some of the most popular ones (for SaaS marketing) include:

  • PPC - Running ads on websites like Facebook, LinkedIn, Reddit, etc.
  • SEO - Optimizing your website to rank on organic searches on Google or other search engines.
  • Content Marketing - Creating content that helps your ideal customers solve their problems.
  • Partnerships - Partnering with other businesses and helping each other drive new customers.
  • Outreach - Directly reaching out to your prospective clients via email or social media. You can do this at scale via email marketing software.

Then, for each channel, define 5 - 10 tactics you want to try.

For example, if you’re doing outreach & own a SaaS for restaurant management, you might consider the following tactics:

  1. Reach out to US-based restaurant owners via email every day.
  2. Use LinkedIn automation tools to automatically reach out to restaurant owners based in the US.
  3. Join Facebook groups for restaurant owners worldwide and manually reach out to restaurant owners.

Once you’ve defined enough channels and tactics you want to try (and we recommend aiming for as many as possible), move on to Step #2.

In case you’re not sure how each of these channels works, worry not! We’ll dive deeper into the channels in a bit.

Step #2. Execute Experiments

Now, start executing each SaaS marketing tactic one at a time or in batches of 2-3.

For each tactic that you’ll experiment with, make sure to track the following data:

  • How much does it cost to acquire a single new user via this channel?
  • How much revenue did you generate per user from this channel, and how does it compare to the cost of acquiring a single user?
  • What’s the total potential customer reach for this channel?
  • How many users did you get from the tactic in total?
  • How scalable is this tactic?
  • Are you getting the right users (i.e. paid users VS freemium)

Step #3. Double-Down on What Works

Once you’re done running the experiments, it’s time to compare how each tactic performed.

At this stage, you want to find 1-3 channels that get you the best results at the lowest cost.

Then, focusing on one channel at a time, scale it up as much as you possibly can.

With Facebook ads, for example, scaling can mean simply upping your ad spend.

Scaling outreach, on the other hand, involves reaching out to more prospects or hiring more outreach specialists.

How to Market Your SaaS Business - 7 SaaS Marketing Channels That Work in 2021

Now that we’ve taught you the strategy behind SaaS marketing, let’s talk about channels.

In this section, we’ll cover the best-performing channels for SaaS marketing, starting with:

#1. Do Content Marketing

There’s no doubt about it - even in 2021, content is king.

According to the Content Marketing Institute’s 2018 research, over 91% of B2B marketers, and 86% of B2C marketers use content marketing to reach their customers.

Which, of course, makes a ton of sense.

SaaS content marketing comes with a lot of benefits both for B2B and B2C SaaS businesses.

Content marketing can help:

  • Acquire new users.
  • Strengthen your brand.
  • Establish your company as an authority in your niche.
  • Educate leads about your product.

And here’s the kicker:

Content marketing can be extremely cheap as long as you have the writing chops, or can hire someone that does.

As for the “how” of content marketing, it all boils down into 2 steps:

  1. Create epic content. Create content on topics your target audience would like to read.
  2. Promote it all over the internet. Post it on Reddit, share on Facebook / LinkedIn, ask influencers to share it, etc.

Want to learn more about SaaS content marketing? Check out our dedicated guide!

#2. Drive Organic Traffic & Buyers With SEO

SEO is another very popular SaaS marketing channel.

Get it right, and you’ll be driving qualified buyers to your SaaS product on auto-pilot!

SEO, if you’re new to digital marketing, is a practice of getting your website to rank for search terms on Google.

E.g. If you're marketing a resume builder SaaS, you’d seriously benefit from ranking on keywords like ”resume builder,” “resume templates,” “cv builder,” etc.

So, to make that happen, you’d create content that matches those keywords, optimize it for SEO, and build links to it in order to have a chance at ranking.

Our process for doing SaaS SEO is as follows:

  1. Do keyword research and uncover 100 - 300 keywords that are relevant for the SaaS business.
  2. Optimize the website based on on-page SEO principles.
  3. Maximize your website loading speed and make it mobile-friendly.
  4. On an ongoing basis, create quality SEO content and publish it on your blog.
  5. Promote said content on social media.
  6. Reach out to bloggers and businesses in your niche and negotiate backlinks to your website.

Want to learn more? Check out our guide to SaaS SEO.

#3. Direct Outreach

Direct outreach is a super popular SaaS marketing channel in 2021.

The gist of it is, you create and scale the following process:

  1. Someone from your team (most likely a virtual assistant) creates a list of prospective leads on a monthly basis.
  2. You use an email marketing platform or social media automation tools to automatically reach out to the said prospects.
  3. Whenever a prospect replies, a sales professional from your team takes over the conversation and tries to get them to sign up to the platform.

And to give you an example of how this would work in the SaaS niche, let’s assume you’re marketing a SaaS that helps SEO specialists optimize their articles for Google.

You’d use a VA to scrape SEO leads that fit your criteria off of LinkedIn (e.g. works in a product company, has 10+ years of experience, and holds a senior position) and put them all on a Google Sheet.

Then, you use LinkedIn automation software to automatically reach out to these prospects and follow up when needed.

Finally, if a prospect replies, the sales professional takes over the conversation.

#4. Run PPC Ads

“PPC ads” stands for pay-per-click advertising and is an umbrella term for all ads on the internet where you pay for each click.

Some of the most popular PPC channels for SaaS marketing include:

  • Google Search Ads - Meaning, advertising for keywords people look for on Google. If you’re a CRM SaaS, for example, you can advertise on keywords like “CRM tool,” “sales software,” etc.
  • Facebook Ads - On Facebook, you can run ads based on the demographics, traits, and interests of your target audience. E.g. If you're marketing a small business management SaaS, you can target, for example, millennial small business owners.
  • LinkedIn Ads - Finally, on LinkedIn, you can run target ads based on your audience’s profession, seniority level, or employment status. E.g. If you’re marketing a job board for developers, you can use LinkedIn ads to target senior software engineers with 10+ years of experience.

#5. Focus on SaaS PR

SaaS PR involves reaching out to journalists and getting them to feature your software on publications.

Here’s a tried-and-tested method of how you can make this happen (without paying 5-figures to a SaaS PR agency):

First, create a list of the biggest players in your niche.

Then, start Googling their names one by one. Extract all websites that have previously featured the companies.

To make your search easier, you can specifically look up news related to your competitors…

SaaS Marketing - Focus on SaaS PR

Once you have a complete list of all the websites that featured your competitors, you need to extract relevant information about each journalist/article.

We recommend you get the following info:

  • Media Name. i.e. Huffington Post
  • Article Name. i.e. “Asana launches new automation features”
  • Journalist Name. i.e. MadeUp Mc Journalistson
  • Link to the Article
  • Scoop. What’s the article about? You’re going to need this for a good pitch. You can’t just say “hey, i saw you wrote about asana, write about me.” What you can say, though, is “hey, I saw that you wrote about Asana’s new automation tools. We actually have one of the most flexible rule builders in the industry, so we thought you’d be interested in covering us.”

Finally, use a tool like Snov.io to reach out to all the journalists with a personalized pitch.

Learn more about PR here.

#6. Build a Referral Program

Referral programs are pretty much a must-have for any SaaS company in 2021.

A good referral program can act as an amplifier for all your other marketing initiatives, and as such, we recommend you set one up before you even start marketing your SaaS business.

After all, for each satisfied user you acquire, you stand a chance of getting 1-10+ more through referrals.

Learn more about referral marketing here.

#7. Launch a Lifetime Deal

If you’ve been in tech for a while, you’ve probably already heard about how lifetime deals work.

For those of you that haven’t, though, here’s a brief rundown.

Companies like AppSumo are marketplaces for SaaS lifetime deals.

SaaS Marketing - Launch a Lifetime Deal

The gist of it is, if you want to offer a lifetime deal, they’re going to promote your product to their entire user base in exchange for a cut of your total revenue from the initiative.

A lifetime deal is a good way for SaaS startups to…

  • Get a ton of new users real quick with 0 effort.
  • Generate an influx of revenue.
  • Get feedback on your product from the new users.

6 SaaS Marketing Metrics You Should Track

In order to know how well your SaaS marketing is performing, you need to constantly track and analyze these essential SaaS marketing metrics:

#1. Traffic

This one’s simple - you need to track the number of people that visit your website as a whole, as well as specific pages.

You don’t really have to do much here, just install Google Analytics and it’s going to do the tracking for you.

Here’s how you can do this.

#2. Conversion

Conversion is, in a nutshell, the percentage of all website traffic that takes your desired action (e.g. signing up for a free trial of your product).

If, for example, you have 100 traffic on your website, and 5 of them sign up, this means that your conversion rate is 5%.

In terms of conversions, we recommend that you track the following data:

  • % of all traffic converts to free trial, freemium, or paid product.
  • % of traffic from a specific channel (e.g. Reddit) converts.
  • % of all free trial or freemium users convert to the paid version. You should track this both site-wide, as well as by channel.

Further readings on how to track this data:

#3. Lead Quality

Not all leads are created equal.

Leads from Reddit ads, for example, might net you on average 100 USD per lead.

Leads from Facebook ads, on the other hand, net you only 50 USD.

Having this kind of data allows you to understand which channels are performing better.

#4. Cost Per Lead (CPL)

As the name suggests, CPL is a SaaS marketing metric that tracks the cost of each lead on your website. You should calculate CPL for both:

  • Site-wide average. E.g. What does your average lead cost you?
  • Channel-specific. E.g. What's the average cost of a lead from a specific channel?

To get a more complete picture of your SaaS marketing, you also need to track cost per lead (or, CPL) in addition to lead quality.

Why?

Well, it’s simple:

Let’s go back to the example with leads from Reddit and Facebook ads.

If you’re getting 100 USD per lead from Reddit ads and 50 USD per lead from Facebook ads, Reddit ads seem like the winner.

But if the cost per lead for Reddit is 90 USD, and the cost per lead for Facebook is 10 USD, you’re looking at a completely opposite picture.

With the first, you’re only generating 10 USD per lead profit, with the latter, you make 50 USD.

#5. Customer Lifetime Value (CLTV)

CLTV, or customer lifetime value, is another essential SaaS metric.

As the name implies, CLTV means the (on average) total revenue you can generate from any single customer.

If your average user sticks around for 12 months, for example, and each user pays 10 USD, your CLTV is 120 USD.

Tracking this metric allows you to have a good idea of how much you can afford to spend to acquire each new user.

#6. Customer Acquisition Cost (CAC)

And lastly, CAC - customer acquisition cost.

CAC, as the name implies, is the average cost of acquiring a single new user.

As with most other channels, you should track CAC by each channel, as it helps you determine how profitable each channel is, and which ones you should scale up.

2 SaaS Marketing Examples (With Amazing Results)

#1. SaaS Content Marketing Example - Mint’s Journey to 1.5 Million Users

Mint.com is a budget-tracking and personal finance planning software that grew to 1.5 million users and exited for $170 million in just 2 years.

SaaS Content Marketing Example - Mint’s Journey to 1.5 Million Users

And a big chunk of Mint’s growth can be attributed to content marketing.

They created a blog and started working towards making it the #1 authority blog related to personal finance.

They published high-quality content on the topic and promoted it on Reddit, Digg, and other social media platforms to drive traffic to it.

Learn more about how Mint grew here.

#2. SaaS SEO Marketing Example - 0 to 200,000 Monthly Traffic

A while back, we helped a SaaS in the process management niche grow their website to over 200,000 monthly organic traffic:

SaaS SEO Marketing Example - 0 to 200,000 Monthly Traffic

Here’s how we did it:

  1. We audited the client’s keyword research sheet and improved on it.
  2. We audited client’s published content and looked for reasons it wasn’t performing well.
  3. Created writer guidelines to make sure that the content team was creating the right content.
  4. Interlinked all new & old blog posts with each other.
  5. Upgraded blog visuals to make content more engaging.
  6. Continuously tracked and improved content that didn’t perform as well as expected.

Learn more about the SEO case study here.

Need help with your SEO?

Let's skyrocket your traffic together!

Noel Ceta - co-founder of Apollo Digital

Work With a SaaS Marketing Agency

SaaS marketing can be extremely overwhelming.

You need to learn and master so many things, including (but not limited to):

  • Digital marketing strategy
  • Online advertising, SEO, content marketing
  • How to set up conversion tracking and keep track of the right metrics

Want to skip ahead? Work with our team of experienced SaaS consultants!

Apollo Digital is a seasoned SaaS marketing agency with a strong track record of SaaS growth.

Some of our top achievements include growing a BPM SaaS to 200,000 monthly organic traffic, and a CV builder company to 1.8 million monthly organic traffic.

Want to get similar results?

Let’s talk!

SaaS Marketing FAQ

#1. What is SaaS?

SaaS, which is short for Software-as-a-Service, is a method of software licensing and delivery.

Or, in simpler words, instead of downloading software and running it on your device(s), you subscribe to the software online and use it via an online application.

#2. What is a B2B SaaS?

B2B SaaS means Business-to-Business Software-as-a-Service and, as the name implies, it’s a type of SaaS products used by businesses and organizations (as opposed to direct consumers).

Some examples of B2B SaaS products include:

  • ClickUp (B2B project management SaaS)
  • HubSpot (marketing software for organizations)
  • SurveyMonkey (email marketing software for businesses)

Learn more about B2B SaaS marketing here.

#3. What are examples of a SaaS business?

Some of the most popular SaaS examples are:

  • Netflix
  • DropBox
  • Google Workspace
  • Zoom

#4. How do I market my SaaS business?

A tried-and-tested SaaS marketing strategy is as follows:

  1. Brainstorm SaaS marketing tactics and channels you want to use.
  2. Define experiments to make sure how each channel or tactic performs and execute them.
  3. Measure how each tactic performed and scale the ones that got you the best results.

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