SaaS (Software-as-a-Service) marketing is the adaptation of standard marketing communications (marcomms) practice to facilitate the sale of cloud software products and information services.
Marketing is a core topic taught on MBA programmes around the world and as such is recognised as an essential area of business practice. Understanding the specialised needs of this class of business services is of fundamental importance to the success of SaaS companies.
SaaS marketing covers the accepted general principles of marketing that were established long before the Internet age brought us the world-wide web and digital marketing. Fundamentally, these include an integrated approach working across multiple channels.
The essential channels for SaaS marketing are website, email, social media and Search Engine Marketing (SEM incorporating PPC & SEO). Of course, more conventional items in the communications mix such as brand, PR and exhibitions also need to be considered. For larger, successful SaaS companies, traditional paid media such as TV and print advertising and sponsorship expands the channel portfolio further.
There is a need to orchestrate outbound marketing activity to run integrated campaigns across channels. There is also a need to have a structured way of handling inbound marketing enquiries from people responding to outbound campaigns and those that have discovered the product through search, influencers or peer recommendation.
The basis for SaaS marcomms is content. Whether this is the words and images on the website, the messages broadcast via email marketing, or the informational materials such as brochures, white papers or blogs that are digitally published, content is the way that SaaS marketers spread the word and create engagement with prospective and existing customers.
To understand how to adapt marketing to meet the needs of SaaS businesses we need to identify the fundamental differences between the SaaS business model versus other types of commercial enterprise. Of course, when compared with more conventional items, the most obvious difference is that with SaaS, there is no physical product.
With clothing, for example, you can inspect quality of material, craft skill and finish. What is the equivalent for software? How do customers inspect and experience SaaS products before purchase or subscription?
With nothing to physically touch, consequently, allowing prospective buyers see or use the software and experience its benefits has become very important. A popular way to engage with prospects is to provide a live demonstration. The webinar-based approach provides maximum exposure on a one-to-many basis. However, many favour personalised 1-2-1 demos allowing for deeper engagement and better relationship building opportunities with individuals representing a single prospective customer company.
Building the capability to provide a free trial to test drive a SaaS product and all its features for a limited time has become one of the cornerstones of SaaS marketing and is a good example of one of the adaptations of marketing practice to the specialised area of SaaS. Onboarding, free trial conversion and then paid subscription conversion has become a much studied area of practice.
Tools for tracking the activity of people undertaking a free trail and then linking this with outbound marketing communications, such as email, are widely used to understand behaviour and to stimulate interaction with the SaaS product based on the users observed activity.
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