Having an effective marketing strategy is critical for any business, including for B2B SaaS companies with the increasingly fierce competition in the B2B SaaS market.
To stay ahead of the curve, it’s important for any SaaS company to plan and implement an effective B2B SaaS marketing strategy so they can effectively build brand awareness, attract and retain customers, and grow the business in a sustainable way.
In this article, we’ll cover all you need to know about B2B SaaS marketing. Whether you’re just starting out or a seasoned marketer in the niche, you’ll find actionable tips and practical insights to help you succeed in your next B2B SaaS marketing campaign.
By the end of this guide, you’d have learned about:
- The concept of B2B SaaS marketing
- Importance of having a B2B SaaS marketing strategy
- Creating a strong branding and unique value proposition (UVP)
- Developing content marketing and SEO for B2B SaaS business
- The right way to use paid advertising to support your marketing strategy
- Adjusting and improving your strategy based on data-driven insights
Without further ado, let us begin this guide.
Definition and scope of B2B SaaS marketing
B2B SaaS marketing refers to all kinds of efforts, methods, and strategies used by a B2B SaaS (Software as a Service) company to promote and sell its product to its customers. Since the subject of this article is B2B SaaS businesses, then the target customer here is other businesses or organizations.
Due to the relatively complex and longer B2B purchasing process that may involve multiple decision makers (more on this later below), the scope of B2B SaaS marketing can be very wide, including but not limited to:
- Building awareness
- Establishing credibility, thought leadership, and trust
- Showcasing the tangible benefits of the SaaS product
- Reaching out and attracting potential customers (lead generation)
- Nurturing and convincing multiple decision-makers in a target company
- Maximizing retention and minimizing churn, critical for B2B SaaS products with a subscription-based business model
Importance of having a marketing strategy for B2B SaaS business
Having a strong marketing strategy can help a B2B SaaS business differentiate itself from competitors, create a competitive advantage, and establish a strong presence in the market–which will ultimately allow itself to grow in revenue and profit.
Here are some essential benefits to having a marketing strategy for B2B Saas businesses:
- Building brand awareness: an effective marketing strategy can help the B2B SaaS business build strong brand awareness and increase recognition of the SaaS product it offers. Ultimately, stronger brand awareness will drive revenue growth.
- Attracting and retaining customers: a well-crafted marketing strategy can help the SaaS business in elaborating its unique value proposition (UVP) and build trust with potential customers. Ultimately, this will help the business not only in attracting more customers but also retain existing customers.
- Differentiating from competitors: a strong marketing strategy can help the business differentiate itself from its competitors, establishing a stronger presence in the market.
- More cost-effective marketing efforts: a comprehensive and effective marketing strategy can help the B2B SaaS business identity and target its ideal audience. This will ensure the business uses its resource and time more efficiently and effectively and maximize each marketing campaign’s ROI.
- Better marketing direction: an effective B2B SaaS marketing strategy can help to better align marketing efforts with the overall business goals of the SaaS company. In the long run, this will help the business to use its resources in the most effective way to achieve its desired objectives.
Unique marketing challenges for B2B SaaS businesses
Every business is unique, and each will face unique challenges when it comes to marketing its product or service. A marketing tactic that works for one business in one niche might not work for other businesses, and vice versa.
With that being said, B2B SaaS businesses face several unique marketing challenges that should be considered before we start planning a marketing strategy, they are:
- Smaller target market: B2B SaaS products typically have a smaller, more specific target market compared to B2C products. Means, it’s typically more challenging to reach and engage your target companies.
- Complex purchase decision: Not only do B2B businesses typically have a smaller target market, but each target audience (businesses or organizations) typically has a complex decision-making process involving multiple individuals with different priorities and goals. You may need to tailor different marketing campaigns to target these different decision-makers individually.
- Building credibility: While trust is always critical in any sales, it’s even more important in B2B sales. B2B businesses purchase solutions to improve their business operations, and they know that purchasing the wrong solution can jeopardize the business’s core operations. With this phenomenon, building trust and credibility with your target customers can be challenging and time-consuming and requires a well-crafted marketing strategy.
- Communicating complex technical features: B2B SaaS solutions are typically more complex with more technical features that can be difficult to explain to potential customers. Whether you can effectively communicate these features in a clear and engaging way to potential customers can be a major challenge in practice.
- Proving ROI: B2B SaaS solutions typically require a significant investment, and on the other hand, potential customers mostly purchase these solutions for business reasons. Meaning, it’s critical for B2B SaaS businesses to be able to prove the solutions’ return on investment (ROI.) On the other hand, elaborating on the cost-effectiveness and financial benefits of SaaS solutions can be challenging, and should be a major consideration when planning a marketing strategy.
- Dealing with the competition: The SaaS market is highly competitive, and depending on the niche, B2B SaaS markets can be highly saturated with many established players. Competing with these established players can be very challenging in practice and would require a comprehensive marketing strategy.
- Balancing long-term and short-term objectives: Due to the business model of most SaaS businesses, which typically involve subscription-based, recurring revenue model, balancing short-term goals such as generating immediate revenue by acquiring new customers with long-term objectives such as maximizing loyalty and building brand awareness, can be very challenging in practice.
- Maximizing retention: For Saas solutions sold with recurring revenue, a subscription-based model, customer churn (attrition, turnover, the percentage of subscribers who cancel their subscriptions) is a constant threat. Preventing churn by keeping customers engaged and satisfied with the product should be the focus of the B2B SaaS marketing strategy.
Developing an effective B2B SaaS marketing strategy: a step-by-step guide
Considering the challenges above, planning and implementing a successful B2B SaaS marketing strategy can seem overwhelming at first. However, here’s a step-by-step guide to help you get started.
Step 1: Define your marketing goals
Before we start planning a marketing strategy for the B2B Saas business, it’s very important to first define the desired goals of the marketing efforts.
Setting specific, measurable, and attainable marketing goals can help the B2B SaaS business to more effectively direct its marketing efforts and prioritize resources. Without well-defined goals, the SaaS business wouldn’t be able to measure its progress and results.
There are many goal-setting frameworks the SaaS business can follow when defining its goals, but the SMART framework is the most commonly used one, in which goals should be:
- Specific: unique, clear, and easily understood.
- Measurable: you can measure progress and track results against this goal by monitoring metrics and KPIs
- Attainable: goals should be realistic and achievable. Break down bigger goals into smaller milestones if necessary, in order to maintain the team’s morale
- Relevant: the marketing goal should align well with the B2B SaaS business’s overall goals
- Time-bound: the goal should be attached to a specific deadline so we can effectively track progress against it
Some examples of B2B SaaS marketing goals that follow the SMART framework might include:
- Generate 100 more qualified leads per month by the end of Q2 2003, through the combination of content marketing+SEO and email marketing
- Retain 85% of existing customers over the next 12 months by maintaining excellent customer service and other means
- Increase website traffic by 20% in the 6 months through SEO and social media outreach
Obviously, this is not an exhaustive list, and you can set other marketing goals as you see fit.
Step 2: Define the target audience
Based on the desired goals you’ve defined in the previous step, here the focus is to identify the best possible target audience that can help you achieve these goals.
Since as a B2B company, you are targeting businesses/organizations instead of individuals, you can start by identifying the types of companies (or industries) that would benefit them most from your SaaS solution.
If you’ve run the SaaS business for quite some time and already have an existing customer base, then you can review and analyze your current customer base to identify valuable insights into who your ideal customers should be: demographics (type of business, size, industry, location, etc), behaviors, pain points, challenges, and so on.
However, if you are a brand new company without any customers at all, then you can conduct a competitive analysis and try to collect data about your competitors’ target audience.
Another important consideration when identifying the target audience for B2B business is the fact that although we are targeting businesses or organizations, there are also people within these companies that will also be our target audience. Different organizations may have different individuals that may influence the purchase decision, each of them with their own roles, responsibilities, goals, and priorities.
Once you’ve identified who your target audience is, the next steps are to:
- Market research: conduct market research to gather as much information as you can about the defined target audience from the business’s information (size, location, type of business), demographic data of decision makers (age, gender, job title, etc.), goals, challenges, pain points, and so on. You can use a combination of online and offline methods to conduct market research, such as conducting surveys, interviews, and focus group discussions.
- Develop buyer personas: use the information gathered from the research to develop detailed buyer personas. A buyer persona is a fictional model of your target customer and B2B businesses typically will need to create multiple buyer personas; one (or more) for the ideal target company and the multiple roles of decision-makers within the company. Make your buyer personas as detailed as possible by including information about their demographics, goals, pain points, and decision-making process, among other relevant information.
- Review your product: evaluate your SaaS product to ensure they meet the needs and preferences of your defined target audience. If necessary, consider adjusting your products, or developing new ones to better cater to the needs of your target audience.
- Competitive analysis: consider the competitive landscape and especially your competitors’ target audience so you can identify how you should differentiate your business in the market. For example, if the segment you are currently targeting is too competitive, try to identify whether there’s any underserved segment of the market you could potentially target.
A successful marketing strategy is one that meets its target audience’s needs, goals, and pain points, so don’t underestimate the importance of defining and understanding your target audience. Doing this step correctly alone can significantly help to improve the effectiveness of your marketing efforts.
Step 3: Segmenting the target audience
Once you’ve defined who your target audience(s) is, segmenting your B2B SaaS target audience can help you in planning your marketing strategy, so you can ensure more targeted and effective marketing efforts.
There are various approaches you can use to segment your target audience, but here are the typical steps:
- Identify common characteristics: for example, segment companies that are of the same size or belong to a specific industry/niche.
- Evaluate the needs of your target audience: you can further segment your target audience (or each segment) based on their needs and challenges.
- Collect and analyze data: collect and leverage data (i.e., website analytics, customer feedback, social media metrics) to further inform your segmentation. For example, you can segment audiences based on their current engagement levels with your brand so you can target the less engaged segment with different campaigns.
- Develop campaigns: once you’ve segmented your target audience into the smallest groups possible, then you can start developing highly targeted marketing campaigns for each target audience segment. This can help improve the effectiveness of each marketing campaign.
- Monitor and adjust: target audience segmentation is not a one-off process, but rather should be done on a regular basis. Continually monitor and adjust your segmentation as you see fit, so you can quickly respond to any changes in your target audience’s needs and behaviors.
Proper target audience segmentation would allow the B2B SaaS business to create more targeted and cost-effective marketing campaigns, while at the same time allowing stronger engagement with the target audience to drive better results.
Step 4: Identify your unique value proposition (UVP)
A unique value proposition, or UVP, is a clear and concise statement (typically written) that describes the unique advantage or benefit of a product or service–-in this case, the SaaS product–compared to its competitors.
In short, a UVP should clearly communicate what makes your SaaS product unique, different, and better than others available in the market. Your UVP should be easy to understand, attractive, memorable, and accurately reflect your SaaS product’s key features and benefits.
Developing a strong UVP is important for B2B SaaS businesses for several reasons:
- Attraction: a strong UVP is what helps the SaaS business to attract its potential customers by clearly elaborating on the benefits they will receive from investing in its SaaS product rather than the competitors’. A well-thought-off and well-communicated UVP can increase the likelihood of target customers making a purchase, while at the same time helping the company in building brand awareness and credibility.
- Differentiation: a well-crafted and compelling UVP helps a business—a SaaS business—to stand out from its competitors by articulating the unique values its brand and product offering to customers. Doing so can help attract and retain customers who are looking for specific features and benefits that differentiate the SaaS product from other solutions in the market.
- Alignment: a clear UVP can provide direction for the B2B SaaS business’s product development and design, as well as marketing messaging and strategy. The UVP can help ensure all aspects of the business align with the business’s goals and objectives.
- Focus: a strong UVP can help to focus the company’s marketing efforts by providing a clear insight into who the messaging and offerings should target. This can help ensure the company’s time and marketing resources are directed to prospects with the highest likelihood of making a purchase, improving cost-effectiveness, while at the same time ensuring the company is targeting the right customers with the right message.
As we can see, having a strong unique value proposition is a critical component of a successful B2B SaaS marketing strategy. A well-crafted UVP can, in fact, provide the direction and focus for the whole marketing efforts and messaging to ensure marketing resources and the company’s time are used in the most productive and effective manner.
A strong UVP in combination with a clear understanding of the company’s target audience will be the foundation of an effective marketing strategy.
Step 5: Choose your marketing channels
Based on your marketing goals, the target audience you’ve identified, and your UVP, by now you should be able to use the available insights to select the best marketing tactics and channels to achieve your goals.
The idea is to choose the best possible marketing channels to reach your target audience and for B2B SaaS marketing, there are plenty of channels to choose from, including but not limited to:
- Content marketing: develop and publish educational, relevant, and informative content that provides value to the target audience. The main roles of content marketing are to establish thought leadership and attract target customers who are looking for information. By educating potential customers through content, the B2B SaaS business can position its product as the solution of choice.
- SEO: search engine optimization is typically used to support the content marketing campaign by optimizing the website and online content for Google and other search engines to improve search engine rankings, increase your content’s (and website’s) visibility, and ultimately attract more organic traffic.
- Social media marketing: we can utilize both organic marketing and paid marketing strategies on social media channels to engage with the target audience, build brand awareness, and drive traffic to your website to generate leads.
- Influencer marketing: technically a part of social media marketing, here the B2B SaaS business can partner with relevant influencers in the niche. Doing so will allow the business to tap into the influencer’s followers, amplifying the company’s reach to a wider audience. Useful for building brand awareness, driving traffic to the website, and generating interest.
- Events: both offline and online events (i.e. webinars) can be useful for showcasing your expertise, building relationships with target customers and potential partners, and generating leads. If hosting events isn’t possible, attending events (especially offline) like trade shows and relevant exhibitions alone can offer so many benefits for the B2B SaaS business.
- Paid advertising: paid advertising in various channels (i.e., social media, Google, offline advertising) can be very effective to help the SaaS business reach a wider audience and generate leads in a fairly short amount of time. While paid advertising can be expensive, when done right with proper targeting, it can be cost-effective.
- Referral marketing: encourage and incentivize existing customers to refer new customers, leveraging the word-of-mouth marketing effect, and getting more customers in the process.
Ultimately, choosing the right marketing channels for your B2B SaaS business is about observing your target audience’s needs, industry trends, and your business’s specific goals. There’s no one-size-fits-all answer, but evaluate as many channels as you can in order to reach your target audience, communicate the values of your SaaS product, and drive growth for your B2B SaaS company.
Step 6: Determine the marketing budget
Now that you’ve identified which channel(s) you are going to use, you should start planning a marketing budget. A marketing budget would help to make sure the marketing strategy remains cost-effective throughout its execution, and here are some steps you can take to estimate your budget:
- Assess your business and marketing goals: evaluate the marketing goals you’ve identified above, as well as your overall business goals. This will help you estimate the level of investment needed to achieve them.
- Analyze past marketing efforts: evaluate your past marketing campaigns’ performance (if any) and assess what has worked and what hasn’t. The idea is to invest more in channels that have worked and invest less (or not at all) on channels that didn’t work.
- Evaluate the competition: research your competitor’s marketing approach. This will help you identify areas where you may need to invest more of your budget in order to stay competitive.
- Consider your resources: perform an audit of your available resources (staff, time, money, etc.,) so you can determine how much you can spend on marketing without putting too much burden on your business.
- Determine your ROI goals: consider how much ROI you hope to achieve from each of your marketing campaigns. This should help you make informed decisions on what level of investment is needed in marketing.
- Allocate resources: based on all these factors you’ve assessed, determine which marketing channels you will leverage, and allocate your budget accordingly.
Ultimately, there’s no one-size-fits-all answer on how you should determine your marketing budget. Instead, it should depend on yourB2B SaaS business’s unique goals, needs, and priorities.
Also, the determined budget doesn’t need to be set in stone. Along the way, review and make adjustments as you see fit in order to meet the optimal ROI.
Step 7: Develop a content marketing plan
Regardless of the marketing channels you choose to invest in and your available budget, you’ll always need content for each of these channels.
In short, you’ll need a comprehensive content marketing plan to power your marketing channels and tactics.
The basis of content marketing is about creating and publishing relevant and valuable content for your target audience. In developing your content marketing plan, here are some actionable tips you can use.
- Know and understand your target audience. If you’ve come this far on this guide, by now you should have possessed a thorough understanding of your ideal audience. The better you know your target audience, the more likely you can create content that addresses their needs, interests, and pain points.
- Diversify your formats. Remember that different people may prefer to consume content in different ways. Thus, provide a variety of formats and leverage different mediums to amplify your reach and ensure engagement. This can include text-based content (blog posts, eBooks, etc.), videos, images/photos, infographics, podcasts, webinars, and more.
- Quality over quantity. An important mindset to have is that it’s better to produce high-quality and polished content less frequently than to publish low-quality content frequently. Always prioritize quality over quality, and make sure your content is well-researched and appealing.
- Have a content calendar. Create a schedule for when, where (in which channel), and how often you will publish your content across different channels. This will help you maintain consistency and stay organized in delivering relevant content to your target audience.
- Keep your content fresh. To ensure optimal engagement, it’s important not only to publish relevant and fresh content regularly but also to refresh and repurpose old ones. Maintain a healthy combination between evergreen content and seasonal, timely industry-related content.
- Monitor and optimize. Continuously and regularly monitor your content’s performance. Identify what’s working and areas for improvement, and optimize your content marketing plan accordingly. Use analytics solutions to track performance metrics such as page views, click-through rates, and other engagement and conversion metrics to help you make informed decisions going forward.
Step 8: Implement and leverage SEO
No matter how high-quality, relevant, and valuable your content is, it won’t bring much value to your SaaS business if no one consumes the content.
Promoting the content is just as, if not even more important than the content creation process, and this is where SEO (search engine optimization) comes in as one of the most effective ways to promote your content.
SEO, simply put, is an effort to optimize your website and its content to rank higher in Google’s—and the other search engines’ —SERPs (search engine results pages.) When your page ranks higher for relevant search queries and phrases, it will experience an improved visibility and increased organic traffic.
While SEO implementation might seem like a daunting task at first, it can actually be simplified into just three basic steps:
- Keyword research
Keyword research is the process of identifying what keywords or phrases you would target in your SEO efforts. There are three basic principles in finding ideal target keywords for your business: search volume, relevance, and competition:
- Search volume: find keywords that are frequently searched by your target audience, signified with a high monthly search volume.
- Relevance: not all search queries that are popular among your target audience would be relevant for your business Choose keywords that align well with your SaaS marketing objectives to ensure the organic traffic you attract will be highly targeted.
- Competition: depending on your available time and resources assess whether the competition for the said keyword is manageable. Even if it’s popular and relevant for your business, it might not be worth pursuing if the competition is too difficult and/or expensive.
You can leverage various SEO tools—free and paid—to help you with your keyword research, such as Google Keyword Planner (free), Ahrefs, or SEMrush to identify potential keywords and evaluate their search volumes and competition difficulties.
Make a list of your target keyword, and move on to the next step.
- Optimize your content and website
Your keywords must be incorporated naturally into your content’s body, but the content must remain comprehensive, readable, and attractive to the human audience. Besides this, other on-page optimization tactics you should consider include:
- Title optimization: optimize your page titles by including the target keywords, but keep them under 60 characters so they will be displayed properly in search results.
- Meta description: the meta description will be the snippet shown on the search results page for your site. So, include the target keywords when you can, but focus on writing attractive and compelling meta descriptions that will encourage users to click through to your site.
- Header tags: use header tags (H1, H2, H3, etc.) to keep well-structured content. Use your target keywords in these header tags when you can, but do so naturally.
- URL structure: use descriptive URLs that are easily understood by your target audience, but include keywords naturally.
- Image optimization: compress images to reduce file size and ensure optimal page speed, and optimize alt tags with relevant keywords that also describe the image for accessibility (i.e., for visually impaired readers.)
- Internal linking structure: include internal links (links to other pages on your site) to improve the site’s structure and user experience by facilitating easier navigation.
- Page speed: use Google PageSpeed insights to assess your site’s speed performance and optimize it accordingly.
- Mobile-friendly: ensure your site is optimized for mobile (mobile-responsive), and test on as many devices as possible.
This is a non-exhaustive list, and there are certainly more on-page optimization strategies you can implement. Nevertheless, keep in mind that all on-page optimizations should focus on two things: ensuring optimal user experience (content quality, optimal page speed, mobile-friendly, etc.), and making sure your website can be properly crawled, recognized, and indexed by the search engines.
- Building backlinks and earning mentions
Backlinks, or inbound links, are links from other websites pointing to your site.
Backlinks are one of, if not the most important factors determining search engine rankings: the more high-quality and relevant backlinks your site has the more likely it will rank higher on search engine rankings.
In a nutshell, Google and the other search engines treat backlinks like a vote of confidence. When website A links to website B, website A is essentially saying that website B is trustworthy and credible. This is why a backlink coming from a well-established website that is relevant to the recipient website (i.e., belongs to the same industry,) has more value than a link from a brand-new, totally unrelated website.
There are various approaches you can use to get more backlinks to your site, but in general:
- There’s no shortcut to creating high-quality, relevant content. Great content will get those backlinks sooner or later, and on the other hand, no amount of effort would help low-quality content to get more links.
- Include something attractive that other websites will want to link to in your content, including:
- Unique information not available anywhere else (i.e., original research report, data roundup, etc.)
- Attractive visual assets like great photos
- Infographics are always attractive
- Original and attractive stories
- And so on
- Guest post on relevant websites/blogs in your niche, and link back to your website
- Participate in communities and online forums where you can share your expertise and link to your website (will also help in content promotion.)
- Earn mentions of your brand, including in social media posts, industry news articles, or other types of online content.
Step 9: Leverage email marketing
Even with the newer marketing channels, platforms, and technologies, don’t underestimate the power of email marketing in all stages of the customer journey.
Email marketing has exceptionally high effectiveness and ROI in attracting customers, nurturing leads, and driving conversions, and here are some effective ways you can leverage email in B2B SaaS marketing:
- Build your email list: your email marketing strategy will only be as strong as the quality of your email list. While there’s the option to purchase an email database, it won’t be as effective as building your own targeted email list that consists of your ideal audience. Use lead magnets and other lead-generation strategies to build and grow your email list.
- Segment your audience: segment your email list so you can deliver personalized and highly targeted messages to your prospects. You can segment based on industry, niche, job role, goals, interests, and other factors.
- Optimize your subject line: your email’s subject line will literally make or break your email’s chance to be opened by the target audience (open rates.) Make sure the subject line is clear, concise, and compelling.
- Optimize your content: make sure the email’s content is immediately engaging nd informative that offers immediate value. Include compelling CTA to encourage readers to take action.
- Personalize your messages: effective email marketing is about sending the right message to the right people at the right time. Personalize your messages as much as you can (using automation tools when possible,) using the recipient’s first name, company name, and any other information to increase engagement.
- Automate: use email automation to send triggered emails (drip marketing.) For example, you can send an automated email after a subscriber has abandoned their cart.
- Mobile-friendly: make sure all elements of your email are optimized for mobile devices and load fast.
- Test and optimize: test different elements of your email campaign (i.e., via A/B tests), such as different subject lines, CTAs, and the content itself. Adjust your strategy as needed to improve conversions.
Step 10: Support with paid advertising
While we have mentioned how advertising and other paid promotional efforts are no longer very effective on their own, you can use these paid efforts to support the other marketing strategies and tactics discussed above.
Doing so can amplify your reach to a wider audience and generate leads/drive conversions faster.
Of course, we have to be careful not to overspend, and here are some actionable tips to leverage paid advertising in a cost-effective way:
- Targeting: the secret to cost-effective advertising effective targeting. Determine and segment the target audience of your ads based onf demographics, behaviors, pain points, interests, and other factors.
- Choose the right platform: there are obviously a wide variety of advertising platforms available: Google (including YouTube and others), Facebook (including Instagram), LinkedIn, and others. Choose the right advertising platforms that best meet your marketing goals and target audience’s preferences.
- Set a budget: test different ad formats, targeting options, and channels, then set an advertising budget that you deem sufficient. Monitor and optimize your results along the way.
- Good copywriting is key: create clear, compelling, and concise ad copy. Focus on communicating your product’s unique value proposition. Use persuasive language to encourage conversions.
- Use compelling visuals: high-quality images and videos are very important to help your ad stand out from the competition and attract the target audience. Use them effectively to support your ad copy.
- Test and adjust: test different formats, targeting options, and copy, and monitor your campaigns regularly so you can adjust your strategy as needed.
Developing a winning B2B SaaS marketing strategy should have its foundation in the thorough understanding of your target audience, as well as your business’s competitive landscape.
The step-by-step guide we have outlined in this article should provide you with a solid foundation to create a comprehensive marketing plan that leverages different marketing channels to attract, engage, and convert your target audience.
By now, you should be ready to create a powerful B2B SaaS marketing plan to beat the competition and achieve sustainable growth.