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How to Create an Effective SaaS Marketing Plan?

Perry Steward
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March 1, 2023
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How to Create an Effective SaaS Marketing Plan?

Trying to create a SaaS marketing plan that actually works?

When it comes to SaaS marketing, you need to keep a few different things in mind:

  1. Figure out how to create a product-led strategy
  2. Determine on most important KPIs like generating leads and improving CLTV (Customer Lifetime Value)
  3. Compete in a highly competitive market.

Your marketing game should be strong to survive and grow in this competitive space. As a link-building and SaaS SEO agency, we help SaaS companies build marketing plans that not only build awareness but also impact business-crucial KPIs. 

Here’s a guide to replicating those results for yourself.

What we’ll cover:

What is a SaaS marketing plan?

A SaaS marketing plan shows all the strategies your company plans to use to generate awareness about your product and bring it into the hands of your target user.

It may cover elements like your target audience, the strategies you plan to use, the pricing model you’ll be using to convert free users to paying customers, the metrics you will focus on, and so on.

For example, thanks to a great SaaS marketing strategy, Slack has generated over 1 billion monthly website users. 

screenshot a graph Slack has generated over 1 billion monthly website users
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The best part about this? They achieved such great results before even hiring a CMO or salespeople.

Their marketing plan isn’t simple, either. It’s filled with power-packed strategies at every point. For example, over the years, they have used podcasts, YouTube product videos with a twist, their 4-step word-of-mouth marketing hack, brilliant Medium blog posts, the reverse pricing model, and much more.

It’s important to note that an effective SaaS marketing strategy isn’t limited to the initial conversion stage. It also looks at aspects like how to retain users and engage them throughout their journey.

Why is a marketing plan important for SaaS companies?

SaaS marketing plans aren’t built for one-time wins but to build relationships and retain customers for a long time. Here are five reasons why it’s crucial to have a SaaS marketing plan in place:

- A well-made SaaS marketing plan helps you attract the right kind of visitors and lead them down the funnel.

- It helps you narrow down the perfect SaaS marketing strategies for your business. For example, you can identify the right kind of marketing channels, the ways your target audience likes to receive communication, and how you can build effective relationships with your customers.

- It helps you retain existing customers and improve metrics like CLTV (Customer Lifetime Value). As your model works on the subscription model, this is one of the most critical points regarding SaaS business.

- It provides you growth in the long run too. For example, aspects of a SaaS marketing plan like content marketing and SEO bring in traffic and convert them even after a period of time.

- Once you know your target audience and what they need to succeed, you can create a better SaaS product or improvise it for them.

SaaS Marketing Vs. Traditional Marketing

“You made a sale!” This statement impacts a traditional business differently from a SaaS business. 

For example, someone selling beauty products may want people to make an initial purchase. But when it comes to SaaS, the initial purchase is only one part of the end goal. It wouldn’t matter if someone purchased your project management tool but isn’t using it. They would only end up unsubscribing in the next month.

SaaS Marketing Vs. Traditional Marketing Funnel

So, what should SaaS marketers do differently from traditional marketers? Let’s have a look.

- Your strategies should be made with the perspective that your users are typically decision-makers with a high level of expertise and experience.

- Plan for the entire user journey. The marketing plan should cover every stage, like how to reach the target audience, why your SaaS product is the best fit, how to convert them, and how they can reach the activation point and keep subscribing.

- As SaaS products are generally more complex than traditional products, your marketing plan should help simplify your product. This could mean providing guides, ebooks, tutorials, and demos.

- SaaS pricing is generally tiered, meaning you might have to create multiple buyer personas and strategies for each segment.

- You need to focus on building long-term relationships with your SaaS customers.

How to create an effective SaaS Marketing Plan?

A solid SaaS marketing strategy depends on a lot of factors. Whether you’re a B2C SaaS company or an enterprise software company, here are some steps to help you create an effective SaaS marketing plan. 

#1 Define Your Customer Profile

Creating a customer profile involves mapping out your ideal customer’s characteristics, livelihood, and activities. This helps you create messaging and campaigns that speak directly to various segments. The result? Better engagement and more conversions.

Buyer Persona

This customer profile should contain answers to questions like:

- What are the buyer’s pain points and goals?

- What are their demographics?

- What is the buyer behavior like? Do they make use of any other tools? Which platforms are they most active on?

- What are some objections they might have for not buying our product?

- Which product features would they require the most?

- What is their marketing budget?

You can create these customer profiles through numerous ways, like digging into data of your existing audience, conducting one-one interviews, using surveys and questionnaires, and talking to your customer success team.

One SaaS company that has made use of buyer personas in a great way is Spotify. The team created five Spotify personas depending on people’s attitudes toward music consumption, their needs, and the context of listening to music. 

This helped Spotify refine and maintain features for different personas and have product roadmaps centered around specific personas.

Note: If you’re just starting or you’re a small SaaS company, start with one or two buyer personas to avoid overwhelming your team.

#2 Understand Your Competition

No matter your SaaS field, you’re bound to have several competitors. Conducting competitor research, in this case, helps you come up with important data to back your strategies. Here’s a basic list to get you started with competitor research:

  • What keywords are they ranking on? How effective are they in generating traffic and conversions?
  • What is their digital marketing strategy like? 
  • Which channels or platforms are they most active on? Do they help bring leads or just build awareness?
  • How many backlinks have they managed to get? Which kinds of websites do they get backlinks from?
  • What are their ad campaigns like?

Since your target audiences may be similar, this data will help you get relevant insights. You can then find gaps in their strategies and create a marketing plan highlighting how you’re different from the existing players in the market.

Here’s a template example you can follow. 

Competitive Analysis Template

Pro-tip: While conducting this research, always dig deep into why they follow a particular SaaS marketing strategy. For example, if they use Twitter extensively, figure out the “Why” behind it. Is it because the audience uses Twitter more or because it’s a great platform to find prospects that might be looking for your solution? This will provide you with qualitative data you can use in your strategies.

#3 Define your marketing goals and OKRs

You're bound to get lost if you don’t know your destination. The same is the case with your marketing plan. You need to set goals to give a clear direction to your marketing team.

You can follow the SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Time-bound) goal framework for this. An example could be, “With a focus on content marketing and SEO strategy, we want to increase website traffic from 500 each month to 2000 each month in the next quarter.”

You can then break down this goal into monthly and weekly tasks for your team.

OKRs (Objectives and Key Results) is yet another approach you can use to set marketing goals. Here, you focus on improving one objective or metric using three or five parameters. Here’s an example of a marketing OKR:

Example of a Marketing OKR

To set the right OKRs for your marketing team, here are some questions you can ask:

- Where are we now?

- Where should we begin?

- What makes this goal essential?

- What should we improve to attain our goal?

- How can we track progress?

You can even use several SaaS KPIs to track growth, like customer acquisition costs, free trial registrations, demo requests, lead conversion rate, free trial to paid user conversion rate, and monthly recurring revenue.

#4 Build an SEO strategy

Wondering if SEO can be powerful?

Postalytics, a direct mail automation software, managed to grow its organic traffic by 28 times in under a year, all because of SEO.

Build an SEO Strategy

Image source

There are thousands of such success stories when it comes to SEO.  

Not only does SEO help you generate awareness, but you can push those visitors to click on the “Subscribe” button with effective strategies. Here are five such SEO strategies you should be using:

  • Find relevant keywords: Which keywords are your audience searching for? How difficult is it to rank for those keywords? Are there certain keywords that are easy to rank and have a good search volume?
  • Optimize your website: Use a tool such as Ahrefs to conduct a technical SEO audit. Find out which SEO factors you need to improve.
  • Create and revamp content: Long-form and engaging content that caters to your audience's search intent helps you succeed with SEO. You can even opt for a content refresh for your old blog posts. Here’s how Ahrefs drove monthly visits from 50 to 600 by adding depth to an old article.

- Build backlinks: The higher the number of backlinks for your content, the higher the probability of it getting a good rank on search engines. 

- Create landing pages: Using search intent to inspire your landing pages can turn an ideal visitor into a high-quality lead for your business. Look at how Canva creates two different landing pages for different search intent.

Screenshot Canva creates two different landing pages for different search intent
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The left one targets phrases like “create certificates” or “design certificates” with 16,000 monthly visits. The right one targets phrases like “free certificate templates” with 33,000 monthly visits.

#5 Create and distribute content effectively

A few years back, Salesforce was running successfully in many global locations, but when it came to the UK, it faced issues maintaining steady leads and growth.

They resorted to a content marketing strategy with three main aspects:

- Video on subjects like sales and marketing but with a tinge of entertainment and fun

- A customer success story in the form of a Prezi presentation

- World’s first stop-motion slide share

The marketing campaign results were outstanding: 100,000 downloads of their customized ebook, an 80% increase in web traffic, and 6500 email newsletter signups.

There are numerous successes when it comes to SaaS and content marketing. You can create meaningful content in the form of blogs and downloadable assets like ebooks, social media posts, video marketing, podcasts, and much more.

Slack has an interesting way of showcasing its content on the website. Their “filter” feature allows the audience to filter content to get exactly what they need.

Slack show Filter content just for you
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It’s important to note that you should create content for all conversion funnel stages. Here are some examples of how you can create and distribute content for all these stages.

examples of how you can create and distribute content for all these stages.

#6 Use paid search strategies

While organic marketing may take time, you can start getting immediate results from paid search activities. For example, you can showcase ads targeting the research phase of a SaaS buyer’s journey. 

You can make use of different paid search marketing tactics like PPC ads, social media marketing ads, competitor keyword bidding, cross-channel retargeting, account list targeting, and so on.

It’s important to note that while you may use paid search strategies to boost results, you should always supplement them with organic marketing strategies like content marketing and social media marketing.

#7 Strategize email marketing campaigns

Email marketing can be a great way to maximize your SaaS marketing results. You can make use of email marketing for several reasons:

- Sending promotional emails to visitors who have shared their email address

- Onboarding new users

- Sending newsletters and other informational content

- Sharing product updates and new features

- Sending discount offers and deals

- Upselling and retargeting

- Surveys and check-ins

Here are some email marketing best practices you can follow:

- Automate behavioral triggers. For example, you can schedule campaigns for when a user starts a free trial, completes a milestone, or applies a discount code. Here’s how Dropbox helps users set up the tool on their computer and phone.

screenshot how Dropbox helps users set up the tool on their computer and phone.

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- Remember to add a human touch to your email marketing campaigns. For example, Hulu shares a special discount offer with users on their birthdays.

screenshot  Hulu shares a special discount offer with users on their birthdays
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- Personalize the emails. Here’s how Zapier sends an email to their free users showing how many tasks they have automated using the platform. This shows the user the value they derive and pushes them to upgrade to the paid version.

screenshot  Zapier sends an email to their free users showing how many tasks they have automated using the platform
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- Experiment with your subject lines. Your subject line determines whether a person will be motivated to open your email. Here are some subject lines that evoke curiosity.

screenshot showing Experiment with your subject lines
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You can use metrics like open rates, click-through rates, signup, and subscriber retention rate to measure the effectiveness of your email campaigns.

#8 Make use of social media strategically

While blog content and ebooks are great at capturing leads and improving conversions, there’s no doubt that SaaS companies are realizing the importance of social media and using it to build relationships and drive engagement.

Since more and more users are getting on social media platforms like Instagram and Facebook, you can widen your audience and reach out to those living in different parts of the world.

Here’s how SaaS companies are making the most out of their social media strategies:

- Partner with influencers. Moz, an SEO tool, partnered with Cyrus Sheperd, an SEO expert. He created a long-form guide and shared it on his social media. The tweet and article both went viral.

screenshot of Tweet  Moz, an SEO tool, partnered with Cyrus Sheperd, an SEO expert
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- Show user-generated content of how users find creative ways to use your product. Here’s how Adobe Photoshop showcases its user, making a creative animation of The Little Prince that went on to garner close to 20,000 likes.

screenshot how Adobe Photoshop showcases its user
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- Find ways to engage, like hosting a Q&A session on Instagram stories or Facebook Live. Canva does that with an aesthetic design.

screenshot &A session on Instagram stories or Facebook Live
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- Showcase your culture and find ways to build a personal connection. Here’s how Trello does that through their highlight on Instagram called “Office culture.”

screenshot how Trello does that through their highlight on Instagram called “Office culture.”
Image source

#9 Track progress and analyze your results

The only way to know whether your SaaS marketing plan is working is to track progress regularly. After all, you don’t want to keep spending money and utilizing resources on marketing strategies that aren’t working.

To make sure you inculcate performance tracking as a part of your process, you need to create a reporting system where you can measure KPIs and other metrics. 

This data will also show you the channels that are getting the most results, the kind of audience that is converting the most, and the marketing budget that is most suitable for each of your strategies.

You can even find out why things aren’t working. For example, if you see that your social media marketing isn’t getting any results, you can dig deep and find out the reasons. It could be because you are not posting content at a suitable time or you aren’t taking care of platform-specific requirements.

Crucial metrics you should track for your SaaS Marketing Plan

The right marketing metrics will help you improvise your marketing plan and keep you laser-focused on your goals. Here are seven such metrics you should look out for.

  • Number of unique visitors: How many unique visits do you get to your website, blog, or landing page?
  • Lead generation: Are your marketing campaigns or strategies generating MQLs (Marketing Qualified Leads) and SQLs (Sales Qualified Leads)?
  • Conversion rate: How many website visitors turn into leads? How many leads are turning into paying customers? What percentage of your MQLs are turning into SQLs?
  • Activation rate: Do customers reach a milestone/activation point that you have set in the journey? (also known as Product Qualified Leads)
  • Customer Lifetime Value: What is the total amount a customer will spend on your business during the time they stay with you? This amount should be less than CAC (Customer Acquisition Cost)
  • Free trial to paid conversion rate: Are the free trial users upgrading to your paid version?
  • Monthly Recurring Revenue: This shows the monthly revenue you generate from recurring subscriptions.

Final Thoughts

You could have the best product and a great team, but if you’re just aiming in the dark when it comes to your marketing strategies, you might not get the results you want.

Making a comprehensive marketing plan can be daunting, but it will help guide your team with a clear vision. It will be easy to attract and acquire customers and retain them. 

If you’re looking for a partner to help you create this marketing plan and align it with your goals and strategy, MADX is here to help you out. Take a look at the results we have achieved for our clients:

How we 28x’d Postalytics organic traffic in under a year?

How Good Annotations secured 300 new backlinks in 90 days?

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