The three pillars to overcome SaaS marketing complexity - ClickZ

30-second summary:

  • Make an art of acquisition — Turn your website into a customer-winning machine. Gain a deeper understanding of exactly what takes prospects from interest to sale and will help pinpoint how sites can be optimized to streamline their journey and fuel higher acquisition rates, consistently.
  • Quantify conversion value — Calculate the true cost of every lead and client. Forensic attribution that connects every step along the purchase funnel is essential for publishers to determine the price of a sale and develop campaigns that will deliver on core KPIs and make the best use of budgets.
  • Boost retention revenue — Find the perfect formula for maintaining strong incomes. Sustainable success depends on not only uncovering the factors that encourage customers to stick around, but also determining which ones drive the highest profits and warrant the biggest share of investment.

The pandemic has proved what most software-as a-service (SaaS) publishers already knew: appetite for on-demand technology is soaring fast.

SaaS has taken over the business world, with the market doubling in size as companies across verticals discover the benefits of cloud-based tools that offer convenient access to advanced capabilities.

Preference for offsite tech is so strong that global revenues are booming. The expectation for such a thriving space is easy marketing, but the reality is that campaigns in this area are highly complicated.

Publishers must ensure their efforts appeal to audiences beyond just the IT department, engaging varied stakeholders across organisations, each with their own unique conversion motivators and nurture flows.

Driving sales often means tempting prospects with ‘try before you buy’ offers, and then convincing trial users to become paying customers. That’s not to mention standing out against an ever-multiplying (Read more...) of competitors.

Potential challenges may be numerous, but they’re not insurmountable. Aside from the right product, what SaaS players need is a smarter strategy, built around three key pillars: acquisition, conversion and retention.

Make an art of acquisition

At a surface level, the mechanics of SaaS acquisition seem simple. Most prospects tend to research and purchase products digitally, often starting their journey by searching online and visiting company websites. But managing this process effectively is far from straightforward.

To bring in users, SaaS publishers can’t rely on the lure of their products alone.

They need the right multi-channel mix of pay-per-click (PPC), display, and social advertising, as well as content that harnesses refined search engine optimization (SEO) practices to increase site rankings for relevant keywords and drive organic traffic.

Then, once visitors arrive, sites must be able to quickly provide the information they seek and facilitate speedy conversions.

All of this depends on knowledge: SaaS publishers must gain an in-depth understanding of their target audiences, the terms they search for, and what takes them from interest to sale. This requires ongoing analysis, testing, and adaptation.

For example, monitoring PPC results will allow publishers to identify which ads drive the highest traffic for specific user groups and continuously adjust spend accordingly.

Meanwhile, tracking on-site behavior will give them a clearer idea of which changes are needed to smooth purchase pathways and turn sites into powerful customer winning engines; be that fine-tuning landing pages, blogs, or navigation.

Quantify conversion value

While driving conversions is vital for all businesses, gains mustn’t come at any price. To maintain sustainable success and growth, it’s essential for SaaS publishers to ensure the cost per lead (CPL) and cost per acquired customer (CAC) is equal to — or hopefully lower than — the returns they receive. In other words, expenses should never exceed rewards.

Central to achieving this is calculating the true CPL and CAC for each individual, using data and sophisticated analytical tools to monitor customer activity. But to provide reliable insight, measurement must cover all bases.

To be specific, publishers should seek forensic multi-touch attribution that encompasses the entire user journey — from ad impressions, clicks and trials, to conversion — and precisely assesses the impact of every touchpoint on ultimate outcomes.

This all-inclusive view will help to establish exact costs and determine whether investments are worthwhile. Crucially, it will also enable publishers to develop campaigns that target the high-value leads most likely to deliver on core key performance indicators (KPIs) and represent efficient use of budgets.

Boost retention revenue

The final major factor for lasting profitability is, of course, retention. Consider a Customer Relationship Management such as Salesforce, one of the largest SaaS companies – 73% of new bookings come from its existing customers.

This means Salesforce could achieve nearly three quarters of its yearly plan without gaining a single new customer. This demonstrates the importance of looking beyond new sales.

In part, improving retention is about finding the perfect formula for holding onto customers.

Much like acquisition, publishers should aim to carefully map out customer pathways and adjust site content or messages to offer a persistently positive experience – ensuring they provide the answers and solutions to the questions and problems people have.

The difference is that publishers are now looking for the factors that encourage customers to stick around while, at the same time, considering which ones drive the highest revenue.

In particular, that involves applying measures such as lifetime value (LTV) and churn rate. Although companies should always strive to keep as many customers as possible, it’s important to recognize that not all customers are equal.

Some might be cheap to acquire but end their contract after a few months, while others cost slightly more but stay longer. By pinpointing those with the ideal LTV:CAC ratio, publishers will be in a better position to decide where resources should be focused to retain the most valuable customers.

SaaS products might be in higher demand than ever, but publishers face fierce competition for users that’s getting tougher by the day.

To maximize success, they must implement multi-layered strategies that master the three key pillars of acquisition, conversion, and retention – accommodating the huge variety of SaaS prospects, streamlining their path to purchase, and honing in on high-value opportunities.

Creating a steady flow of customers is one thing, securing and retaining profitable users is another.

Dave Porter is Head of Client Services at global performance marketing agency Tug. With 20 years’ experience in on and offline marketing, he has governed many digital marketing strategies for international SaaS brands including Citrix/LogMeIn, Intuit, Misys/Finastra, Pipedrive, Procore, and Bluebeam.

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