If you had known online marketing before 2010, you must have heard of marketing mix, market research, Google Adwords, affiliate, price comparison or even SEO.
These are tools which are still relevant, but which give uncertain results, and which require large investments when we want to make a company known, regardless of its size or sector of activity. Indeed, if you use the advertising network of Google or Facebook, you will need to invest several thousand euros to attract a few thousand visitors to your website. When it comes to SEO on Google, it takes time in terms of writing content, money in terms of technical optimization, and most of all, results take months to show. Knowing that you often work blind, it is impossible to know how many users will bring you a search engine in 6 to 12 months.
A start-up has neither the means to invest massively in advertising, nor the time to wait twelve months hoping to obtain potential positioning in Google… It must quickly prove the relevance of its business model.
In addition, a start-up must quickly call on a fundraiser to support its technological investments and its growth. That said, to convince investors, you have to be able to demonstrate ROI and strong traction in a very short period of time.
This is where Growth Hacking comes into its own!
In the first chapter, we will introduce the foundations and basics of a SaaS business. Then, in the 2nd chapter, we will define Growth Hacking in general to give you an idea about what we will be going to talk about in this book. In the 3rd chapter, we will go through the details of the SaaS growth hacking funnel. To finish with the most important section, in the 4rd and final chapter, +33 SaaS Growth Hacking Tactics.
Before getting started, for people who do not have any knowledge about the SaaS market, we will talk, first, about the foundations and basics of a SaaS business, so that we will have everyone onboard when starting the real talk about Growth.
If you feel that you have the prerequisites to start the SaaS growth journey, you can skip this first chapter and go directly to the next one!
In this chapter, we will go through the following topics:
Let’s get started!
SaaS is an abbreviation ofSoftware as a Service, which means that a saas business is a company that hosts an application and makes it available to customers over the internet. This infers that the software sits on a SaaS company’s server while the user accesses it remotely.
SaaS companies can handle just about every business need. Some of the more popular types of SaaS applications available include:
The most important benefit of SaaS isScalability, as SaaS offers high vertical scalability which gives customers the option to access more, or fewer, services or features on-demand. Moreover, SaaS is cost-saving, offers mobility, low-effort updates and flexibility.
It is useful for entrepreneurs to understand what business models are not working well, or are less attractive, so they can avoid those. One of the most common causes of failure in the startup world is that entrepreneurs are too optimistic about how easy it will be to acquire customers. They assume that because they will build an interesting web site, product, or service, that customers will beat a path to their door. That may happen with the first few customers, but after that, it rapidly becomes an expensive task to attract and win customers, and in many cases the cost of acquiring the customer (CAC) is actually higher than the lifetime value of that customer (LTV).
In his series“Analysis of 5 Business Models”, David Skok analyzed 5 different business models:
5. Channel Sales:
It can be used to create extremely successful business models. The channel gives powerful leverage to an organization, adding additional sales resources, and taking advantage of existing customer relationships that the channel partners bring to the table.
As a SaaS business matures, more of its revenues come from long-term customers. Yet most SaaS marketers focus their time and resources on the customer acquisition. The longer you remain in business, the bigger the gap between net new sales and overall revenues, because more revenue comes from the recurring payments of your customer base. If marketing doesn’t mature to follow the revenue stream, it becomes less relevant to the overall business.
To make a SaaS company successful, you can’t just change your software delivery model to the web and expect it all to work. You must make thoughtful, data-driven decisions when it comes to your marketing, sales, and customer success operations. To do so, you have to track the right SaaS metrics and KPIs:
Monthly Unique Visitors
Monthly unique visitors is a count of the number of unique individuals who visited your website in a given month. If someone visits your site multiple times, he/she will only be counted as one unique visitor (assuming the same device and browser is used for each visit and the visitor doesn’t clear his/her cookies between visits).
And while growth in unique monthly visitors is a great gauge of the effectiveness of your top-of-funnel marketing, don’t forget to look at engagement metrics like average time on site, average pages visited, repeat visits, number of comments, downloaded content, email subscriptions, etc.
These metrics will tell you about the quality of your traffic, which is just as important as quantity.
In an ideal world, the user can learn the software on his/her own, begin using it regularly, and find enough value to convert to a paying customer. There are many ways to increase signups, including writing helpful, educational content for both prospective and existing users and optimizing your website’s conversion rate.
For freemium business models, a PQL is the new MQL (or marketing-qualified lead). It helps SaaS businesses pre-qualify potential customers based on their product usage. It is defined based on the number of features used, time spent in the product, and frequency of usage.
Qualified Lead Velocity Rate (LVR)
Once you’ve documented your PQL (or MQL) definition, you need to calculate how many new PQLs you need each month. Since it’s just a matter of time before some percentage of your qualified leads convert, LVR is a great indicator of future sales attainment. To calculate LVR, use the following formula:
Organic vs. Paid Traffic ROI
Organic traffic metrics include visitors who arrive from a non-paid (organic) listing in the search results. Paid traffic metrics, on the other hand, include visitors who arrived from paid search results like pay-per-click (PPC) ads.
Where you invest your marketing dollars should depend on how quickly you need results and how much money you have:
PQL to Customer Conversion Rate
You can measure your PQL to customer conversion rate as the percentage of PQLs that end up converting to paid customers, with the following formula:
Average Revenue Per Account (ARPA)
Average revenue per account (ARPA), also known as average revenue per user/unit (ARPU), is a measure of the revenue generated per account (usually per month as most subscription businesses operate monthly). But you can always calculate it yearly or quarterly according to your plans and billing options.
Customer Acquisition Cost (CAC)
Understanding how much it costs to acquire new customers, and identifying the most profitable marketing and sales channels, is the key to profitably scaling your business.
To calculate it, follow this formula:
Monthly Recurring Revenue (MRR)
Recurring revenue is the lifeblood of any SaaS business. Your MRR is a single and consistent number to track no matter how many pricing plans and billing cycles you have.
Here are the different MRR numbers you should calculate:
Net Promoter Score (NPS)
You can measure customer satisfaction using customer surveys, and in particular, the Net Promoter Score. NPS is the most popular metric to measure customer satisfaction and loyalty.
The NPS tells us the likelihood of a person to recommend a company or its product to someone else. NPS typically uses the 0-10 scale, where zero means they won’t ever recommend the product and 10 means they definitely would. The higher your NPS the better, as it indicates satisfied users who will likely stay with you over time.
Active users means the number of people that are actively using your product. This metric is a benchmark to determine the health of a SaaS company’s customer base. More usage by more users is a strong sign of a healthy SaaS app.
Active users can be measured as daily active users (DAU), weekly active users (WAU) or monthly active users (MAU). A better indicator of success is retention, which tells you how sticky your product is and how many users return to it after their first experience.
Churn rate is the proportion of customers or subscribers who leave during a given time period. It is often an indicator for customer dissatisfaction, cheaper and/or better offers from the competition, aggressive and successful marketing from the competition, or reasons outside of your control like business failure or strategy shifts.
For SaaS companies, a5-7% annual churn is considered acceptable. SaaS companies that sell to smaller businesses should expect higher churn, while SaaS companies that sell to enterprises should strive for very low customer churn.
Customer Lifetime Value (LTV)
To calculate customer LTV, you first have to calculate your customer lifetime:
Once you know your customer lifetime, you can calculate your customer LTV. The simplest formula is:
Every entrepreneur wants to grow their business quickly. But what exactly is “growth hacking”?
“Growth Hacking” has been coined by Sean Ellis back in 2010. Although the term is under a lot of controversy, Marketing is evolving and you should evolve as well. Growth is an iterative process of running experiments and investing in what works. It’s a mindset that you need to adopt in order to grow your SaaS business.
“Growth hacking is when you combine marketing, psychology and technology to achieve business growth.” - Bronson Taylor
In his quote, Bronson Taylor leads us to define growth hacking as the following equation shows:
Growth Hacking = Marketing + Technology * Psychology
Let’s go through the details of each one of these parameters (Marketing, Technology, and Psychology):
This is an important piece that separates growth hacking from pretty much every other type of marketing out there, and will allow you to effectively accelerate your growth. Later in this book, we will go through the most important product tactics to boost Growth.
Growth Hacking is not just generating traffic, it is optimizing the entire sales funnel in a rational way, from lead generation to cross-selling.
This process is called the AARRR framework:
There are many strategies to attract targeted traffic for a very small budget. We can for example retrieve emails from members of known platforms like LinkedIn or Facebook via specific tools. We can also collect free BtoB emails from specialized directories.
The activation consists of transforming a simple visitor to your website into a prospect and then into a customer. To do this, many strategies and tools are available to you. The easiest way is to offer free access by requesting an email. Once you get an email, you will use referral strategies to create leverage through your first users.
All websites have an interest in their users coming back as often as possible to buy new products, generate advertising revenue or simply use a service. Here again, different analysis and segmentation tools make it possible to obtain these results. It is for example possible to send a specific and automatic email to all users who have not been on your site for seven days.
Here you want to use your users to bring you new ones. For example, you can offer paid functions of your tool, vouchers, etc. Users can also unlock bonuses by inviting their friends, or simply by sharing links and reduction codes on social networks.
Attracting new users is good, but the best thing is to monetize your current users more and more. To achieve this, you can use segmentation tools. For example, it is possible to send specific offers with discounts and time limits only to customers who have spent a certain amount.
Tactic#1 - Create a 10x Content Pillar Page
A 10x pillar page generally contains your owned media – the content you own and control. The format is similar to an ungated e-book or a guide. Ungated educational content in the awareness stage solves for both search engine and site visitor. Search engines recognize the clustering of like-themed content pointing to a comprehensive website page or blog post. Site visitors benefit because they can view your content before deciding to commit to downloading it.
The trick is to make the page a conversion-focused asset. How? Package the page’s content into a downloadable resource. You may ask, “Why would someone share their email address just to view the same content in a downloadable format?”. It’s human nature to want to take something if you find value in it.
Whether it’s downloadable content on a 10x pillar page or a helpful book in the library, it only works if the content provides value to the reader. The content also must be valuable enough to prompt readers to fill out your form to keep it in a single document. And if they do, these form-filling readers can be better qualified leads. They willingly gave their information even though they already saw part or most of your content.
At first glance, it's hard to ignore the positively inbound-y natureTypeform's Brand Awareness pillar page. It was built to inform, and lives up to its tagline: "Nearly everything you need to know." Not only is it aesthetically pleasing -- the color palette is, somehow, at once both soothing and bold -- but it's quite easy to navigate. The table of contents appears immediately, and once you begin to consume the content, it's clear, comprehensive, and quotable.
Tactic#2 - Podcasting and Sponsoring Podcasts
If you asked me why podcasting?
I would say audio creates a more memorable and powerful experience for the listener and can create an extremely effective inbound channel. Moreover, it’s easier to promote something during a podcast because the listener can hear your voice inflections and the full force of your pitch.
When creating a podcast, you should keep in mind the following tips:
Slack is very familiar with the podcasting world. Before creating their own podcast, Slack dabbled (a lot) in sponsoring podcasts. Slack’s first CMO, Bill Macaitis, made them an instant marketing priority. In just a matter of time, Slack was sponsoring about 10 podcasts of all very different audiences.
Beyond this, Slack has also branched out into creating two very distinctive podcasts of their own.
So, what you have to do is to find podcasts that your potential audience members are listening to and see if you can become a sponsor (since Slack has a really big audience, they sponsored a lot of different types of podcasts to test which work). It’s an upfront investment, but as you track what works you can cut the losers and keep the winners. Otherwise, if you want to start your own podcast and get it to grow… be different. You need to be known for something (Slack does this by running an entertaining podcast about the meaning and identity we find in work).
Tactic#3 - Create Lead Magnets
If you have visitors coming into your website and you haven’t figured out how to provide CONTENT that is going to encourage them to give you their information, then this tactic is for you!
So, what makes a great lead magnet?
The SAGE rule: Short,Actionable,Goal-oriented,Easy
you can learn more about it in our blog post“the 5/10 principle of high-converting SaaS lead-magnets”
Now, as we know what makes a great lead magnet, you may be asking “What are the high-converting types of lead magnets?”. Well, to answer this question i would say Ebooks, Checklists, and Whitepapers. Because they have high perceived value, they help you to build your email list, and are the most actionable for your user/customer.
Here is an example of Intercom’s lead magnets that allowed them to boost their email list:
By having a creative landing page, you can boost your conversion rate as Intercom did to capture their visitors emails:
Tactic#4 - Webinars
Webinars usually draw in the most qualified leads in your world. They are signing up to learn more and go deeper. This means webinars can be extremely effective at generating growth.
Webinars create a natural sales environment where you begin by providing value and end with a pitch. It can feel natural when done well and create great results.
A good way to produce a webinar that stands out is to play with the format itself.
Pack multiple talks into a half- or full-day format to attract a broader audience and for an opportunity to co-market with several partners. SEMRush went all out on this one and decided to host a full-on multi-track virtual event calledGlobal Marketing Day.
With more than 50 speakers, ~40,000 attendees, and talks live-streamed from four cities over a 24h period this is probably an extreme example. But you can replicate this on a smaller scale and still see success.
Tactic#5 - Blogging
Blogging might be one of the easiest ways to get inbound traffic. The first tactic we’re going to walk through is an inbound tactic for getting visitors into the top of your funnel, using your own audience: Blogging. It is important because it positions you as a thought leader, it helps your SEO ranking, and increases your organic traffic.
The top-down tactic here is that you will focus on ranking for topics centered around the problem that your SaaS solves.
For SEO content, YOU DON’T COME UP WITH IDEAS! Instead, you should focus on reverse engineering the process. You do keyword research to find keywords that your target audience is looking for. Then, you figure out what, exactly, they’re trying to learn from the search. And THEN you create the content.
Let’s go step-by-step through how to create blog posts that rank better on Search Engines:
Hubspot is very known in the SaaS Market, and one of their winner strategies is their SEO:
They have over 6.1 Million monthly organic traffic.
Tactic#6 - Website SEO Audit
An SEO audit is a process for evaluating the search engine friendliness of a website in a number of areas. The main goal of an SEO audit is to help you optimize a website so that it can achieve higher rankings in the search engine results. Things change very quickly in the SEO industry and what is working today may not work in 6 months from now. Google reportedly makes thousands of updates to their ranking algorithm per year and an SEO audit will help you stay in synch. It is necessary to perform regular SEO audits to ensure that your website is up-to-date with the latest developments.
On-Page SEO Analysis:
On-Page SEO is the most important part of the SEO Audit:
The main goal of this section is to help search engines understand the meaning of your content. You should provide search engine crawlers with the right signals through the use of keywords and other on-page SEO elements. You should mainly :
Technical SEO Analysis:
In this section, you need to make sure that search engines can access and index your pages without any issues. You should mainly find answers to the following questions :
Off-Page SEO Analysis:
Off-Page SEO refers to methods and techniques you can use to promote your website on the Internet. It is usually referred to as link building.
SEO Backlinks are considered by the Google algorithm as ‘votes of trust’ and websites with good quality backlinks tend to rank higher in Google results.
Off-site SEO is important but if you are not careful of what you are doing and if you don’t know exactly what you are allowed to do and what not, it is also very risky.
In this section, you should mainly find answers to the following questions:
At Devyaha, to make it simple for SaaS businesses to make an SEO audit for their website, we created our Devyaha Website Auditor that allows you make an audit for your website automatically, generating a PDF report having all the improvements that will make your SEO better. You can access it to check it out(It’s Free) at: https://auditor.devyaha.com
Tactic#7 - Brandjacking Articles
Does your SaaS company have famous competitors? Create brandjacking articles (comparison articles)!
Let’s take the example of project management software niche. You could create content comparing some of your top competitors, for example:
At the end of the introduction, they include an upsell for their product:
On the other hand, if your brand or product is already famous, you can also create content to defend YOUR product:
Tactic#8 - Create and Rank Case Studies landing pages
The first step is to create a list of use-cases for your product. In other words, what can your software be used for, aside from its cornerstone use-case?
If you can’t really come up with any use-case idea, spy on your top 5 competitors are doing. Most of these pages are linked to in the footer…
Here is an example of what Asana are linking in their website footer:
The next step is to create the landing pages and optimize them for the right keyword.For some examples on effective SEO landing pages, check out some of Asana’s:
Once you’ve got the pages ready, you need to get backlinks. Which leads us to the Tactic#5 of our SEO tactics series.
Tactic#9 - Get Backlinks
A backlink is a hyperlink pointing to your site or out to another site. There are two types: outbound backlinks and inbound backlinks. Inbound points to your site and outbound are hyperlinks on your website pointing to other sources.
There 3 main steps for getting high-quality backlinks:
To conduct a comprehensive campaign, you'll have to perform some backlink research first and see where you currently stand.
First of all, you'll need to see all of the potentially harmful links from spam networks you might have gotten, to disavow them as soon as possible.
Second, you'll need to see which pages are getting "organic" backlinks. This will be the "core" of your link building efforts. You will also later use those "core" pages by linking from them to your weaker content that you want to bring up in search results.
To avoid surprise drops in rankings, as well as evaluate the success rate of your link building, and also to see if you might have stumbled upon a viral topic, you'll need to monitor how the link profiles of your pages and domain in general changed. It's vitally important to keep an eye on the dynamics of your backlink profile.
You need to keep an eye on:
- Which link building tactics worked for your pages/domain well, to know which tactics to pursue further.
- The links you lost for whatever reason, to try and get them back by contacting the domains that linked to you in the first place.
Since your competition definitionally operates at least in part of your particular niche, they will likely pursue the same sources of backlinks. It's much easier to research your competitor's links than to find your own.
A much more efficient tactic would be to analyze a couple of your competitors at once, to find the backlinks they share that you don't have in your backlink profile yet.
There's a huge chunk of your potential partners that you have no idea about. There are clients, partners, and, most importantly, key influencers that won't link to the competitors you are researching.
This is where social listening comes in.
Social listening’s role in your link building is two-fold:
- You get to find new opportunities for future reachout.
- It's good for your reputation to be able to engage in conversations about your niche all around the web.
By this step, you should have a clear idea of how your backlink profile changed. You already got rid of the spammy harmful links, and have done some work to get back the backlinks you've lost. So now you need to choose your link building strategy. Of course, there are many tactics available to any webmaster, and the best thing you can do is combine them if time and resources allow you to do so.
Any link building strategy will ultimately rely on what you can offer to the people you're reaching out to. So it will be either the content you create, or the products/services you offer.
Then, having crafted a piece of content, you will start reaching out to the potential link prospects (if possible, disseminate that content to the key influencers you identified earlier), pointing out how it's relevant for them. If your content is good enough, the people working in your niche will want to link to it. On top of writing for your own blog, you can increase your credibility by doing some guest blogging.
PR and Community Building
Tactic#10 - Media Outlets
Getting featured on online media is what makes your tech startup LEGIT.
After all, you finally get to put those “Featured On” logos on your website to show social proof to your website visitors. Being featured on media outlets can bring instant traffic, new users, revenue, and of course social proof.
Now, the question is “How do you get featured?”
Here’s a simple step-by-step on how to get featured on most media outlets as a SaaS company:
#1 - Create a list of your top competitors in your niche.
#2 - Start searching their names one by one on Google. Extract all websites that have previously featured your competitors.
#3 - Once you have a complete list of all the websites that featured your competitors, you need to extract relevant information about each journalist/article.
#4 - Send a personalized email to each of the journalists, asking them to cover your SaaS company.
Now, the key here is to NOT overcomplicate the email, and to NOT talk bullshit. Focus on how your SaaS really stands out. Ask yourself “What do I have that my competitors don’t?”, and use the answer as your pitch to journalists.
Tactic#11 - Social Media
Social Media is ubiquitous. It’s everywhere and almost everyone is using it, and since people are necessary for growth, almost any growth hacker has to utilize social media. Social media is a shareable by nature. Anything you post on social media has a chance to reach beyond your current audience.
The content that gets shared on social media usually falls into one of the following categories:
To build successfully a community for your SaaS business you should keep in mind the following tips:
Tactic#12 - Create an Affiliate Program
An affiliate program is a rewards-based system. In an affiliate program, the company pays a commission to its referral source for producing a new, referred customer. In this setup, both parties are winners. You, as the company, benefit because you gain a new customer and the referral source benefits with a financial reward (usually a percentage of the sale).
The most important thing to consider when setting up an affiliate program is how much you’ll pay your affiliates. Go too low and you won’t attract any decent referral sources. Go too high and you’ll threaten your bottom line.
When developing your rewards system for your affiliate program, avoid playing favorites. There’s nothing worse than an affiliate program that only rewards the top referrals. This type of system is discouraging for a new affiliate partner.
The irony of setting up an affiliate program is that it doesn’t actually market itself. You’ll need to market your program to prospective affiliate partners. Here are the main steps that you should follow to create your affiliate program
Affiliate marketing should be part of your overall marketing strategy, and can be an effective way of expanding your reach, getting new customers, and rewarding referring ones all at the same time. Although affiliate marketing can be slow to build, you’ll eventually be rewarded with an ever-expanding customer base.
Tactic#13 -Google Search Ads
Using Google Search Ads, be sure that you’ll generate qualified leads for your SaaS faster. The main issue with Google Search Ads is that it is sometimes expensive, for example for the keyword “email marketing software”:
The CPC Average is around 22.66$. Which means you pay 22.66$ for 1-click!
If you’re not in a competitive niche, you might actually end up profiting from search ads. We would recommend starting off with a small to medium sized budget (the exact numbers depend on your capital and niche). Your initial ad account set up should focus on testing different keywords, ad types, and ad copies for at least 2~3 months. So that you can have the following outcomes:
Tactic#14 - Retargeting Ads
You can use most online advertising platforms to run ads to specific audiences.
Think, people who visited your website, customers who bought from you in the past, etc. Retargeting ads are pretty popular, just about every SaaS company uses them.
You can use just about any online advertising platform for retargeting. To give you a general idea on how it's done, we'll explain how to use Facebook ads for retargeting.
Tactic#15 - Linkedin Ads for B2B SaaS
LinkedIn ads can help your B2B SaaS business reach a powerful professional audience. The types of the ads that you can run on Linkedin are the following:
Sponsored ads are essentially promoted LinkedIn posts. There are three different formats available for Sponsored Content ads: single image, video, and carousel. Campaigns can run as native news feed ads and Lead Gen forms. Here is an example of Help Scout Ad:
LinkedIn text ads appear in the right rail and top banner on desktop. They include a short headline, blurb, and a small square image. These ads are measured by pay-per-click or cost-per-impression.
Before you create your next campaign, keep in mind:
Tactic#16 -Facebook Lookalike Audiences
Facebook Lookalike Audiences let you reach the people who are similar to your existing customer database, making them highly likely to convert as well.
To create a Lookalike Audience, you first need to create a Custom Audience to tell Facebook what type of users you want to reach. Next, select the “Lookalike Audience” from the audience creation menu and select a target country and a percentage (1%-10%) of the targeted country’s Facebook users. The percentage signifies the people most similar to your selected Custom Audience.
Lookalike Audiences help you to extend your ad campaign’s reach so that you only target people who are likely to be interested in your offer.
Tactic#17 - Software Review Websites Advertising
All of the Software Review websites have their own business model, but most of them still offer a free company profile creation. For example, let’s take Capterra. They let you create a profile for free, and you can start accumulating reviews.
However, if you want your software to be on top of its category, you’ll have to pay on a PPC basis (which starts at 2$ per click). At the same time, paying for traffic also lets you include a link to your website (which is not possible with a free account).
Tactic#18 -Quora Advertising
Most companies who’ve tried running ads on Quora have gotten OK results - nothing too game-changing, but not bad either.
Quora ads are structured just like Facebook ads. You create a campaign where you decide on the budget and objective:
Then, on ad-set level, you decide on your audience. You have 4 different targeting options:
Once you’ve created your ads, you can launch your campaign and start tracking results!
Tactic#19 - Network Effect
The network effect is so powerful in part because the value of the product is tied to the scope and scale of the user base within an organization, the more people using the product, the greater the value each user derives from it. And the more deeply engrained that product becomes in a company, which results in higher retention among companies that adopt the tool.
Slack is one of the most commonly cited examples of a product that grows through the network effect, but let’s look at a couple other examples that also demonstrate how this growth strategy works.
Case study #1:Quip
Quip is a powerful collaboration platform that puts all of a team’s documents, spreadsheets, chat, and slides into one place. It also integrates with Salesforce.
Case study #2:Asana
Asana is a work management platform that gives teams the tools they need to get organized, stay on track, and hit deadlines. With multiple ways to visualize work and a full suite of project management and reporting features, Asana is built for teams.
Both of these products are perfectly suited to take advantage of a network growth strategy because they are designed around collaboration and intended to be used not by a single user, but by teams of users—even entire organizations.
In some cases, a company will adopt these tools from the top down. Managers will decide to implement a particular software solution and roll it out to the entire organization all at once. In other cases, adoption happens from the bottom up. Individual teams start using a tool, and then expose other colleagues to it through cross-functional projects, eventually getting the entire company on board.
Whether deployed from the top down or from the bottom up, these products deliver more value—greater productivity, efficiency, and centralized access to content and tools—as more people sign on to the platform. And as value increases—to individuals and to the organization—the incentive to continue and expand their use also increases. It’s a win-win.
Tactic#20 - API Integrations
The days of integration being a just small project for internal IT teams are far behind us. Now more than ever we are seeing that API integration is crucial for modern SaaS (software-as-a-service) companies to not just thrive but survive in a technology landscape where SaaS and cloud applications are exponentially growing.
Customers expect that any new cloud application they purchase will integrate with their team's existing tech stack right out-of-the-box. Have you ever heard from your sales team that they have lost a deal due to a missing integration? Or has your customer success team seen customers leave because your product doesn't integrate with the apps they already use to be successful in their roles?
For example, as a marketer I expect that the software I purchase to run webinars (e.g.GotoWebinar) will sync webinar registrants and attendees with my marketing automation platform (e.g.Hubspot) which will then sync those leads with campaigns I build in my CRM system (e.g.Salesforce) to provide my sales team with deep insights on the prospects they are interacting with. Here's an example of a general marketing integration flow:
If integration across these systems wasn't offered and I would have to work my internal IT team to integrate, it would make the evaluation process a whole lot easier - I simply wouldn't buy a product that lives on it's own island of data.
Tactic#21 - Incentives & Referral Program
Generating leads through word of mouth from your current user base is one of the most effective and cheapest marketing strategies around.
Here are five tips to get you on the right track with developing a winning SaaS referral program:
The philosophy of Dropbox’s referral program was very understandable. Since the product offered storage space in the cloud, they decided to reward people with more free space not only for referring to their friends but also for accepting an invitation.
In order words, we’re talking about a 2-side referral program for a compelling product, that rewarded both sides for completing the desired task; registering for Dropbox.
Tactic#22 - Landing Pages
Before you begin the process of actually constructing your landing page, it pays to take a step back and make sure you have the answers to the following questions:
Next as you know, the best landing page in the world won’t matter a whole lot unless you drive traffic to it.
Now, depending on factors like your industry, the type of software you provide and your customers, you may want different outcomes from your landing page. Having said that, most SaaS providers construct landing pages to generate leads and get customer signups. Let’s break down the five sections you should focus on if you want your landing page to drive conversions:
Tactic#23 - Copywriting
If I were to ask you what your product does, what first comes to mind? I bet it’s a list of features the SaaS application is capable of doing. That’s great and all, but it’s not entirely why customers are buying from you. In fact, it might be the farthest thing from it. Let me explain. In copywriting, there’s the principle of features versus benefits. Features are factual pieces of information. The amount of users per account, pricing, integrations, etc. They need to be known, but they’re not very sexy. Benefits, on the other hand, are emotions and experiences the customer will gain from using your product.
Let’s look at Shopify, for instance. Navigating to one of their features page, we’re greeted with this hero image and headline:
“Everything you need to start an online store and sell online” is straightforward and benefit-oriented. Below this, they explain further that selling online with an e-commerce store is fast, easy, and scalable; users will also impress customers with beautiful designs.
And, what are all of those things? Benefits! Below that, we have the money shot:
Customers want to set up an online store, right? That’s why Shopify used exciting copy that touches on what customers really want.
It begins with “Set up your store in minutes and bring your brand to life” which implies they can launch their business quickly. (A benefit.)
The drag-and-drop builder section explains no design skills are required and there are over 70 professional themes to customize.
They didn’t just say “We have a drag-and-drop builder” but rather elaborated on what that means for the customer. Shopify then speaks about how their stores are mobile optimized, giving customers a streamlined experience.
Finally, users can accept payments quickly, securely, and without setting up third party accounts. Next time you’re writing SaaS copy, always ask yourself “What’s the real benefit of this?” when explaining product features and your writing will be more exciting than 99% of what’s on the internet.
Tactic#24 - Calls-To-Action (CTA)
The subtle strategies are often the most effective. One of which is the call to action or CTA for short. Calls to action are phrases and words that tells users to–as you could guess–take a specific action. It most importantly removes thinking out of the equation. If they’re already emotionally invested in what you sell, it makes it much easier to push them over the finish line. This is because they don’t have to ponder what step they need to take next.
The entire goal of any sales funnel, website, and the copy that goes along with it is to make it as easy as possible for the customer.
Look how Salesforce has calls to action placed all over their homepage:
From trying a demo to reading their blog, you’re bound to take some form of action depending on your interest level.
Tactic#25 - Pricing Strategy
Established companies have ample resources and a deep bench of existing customers from which to gather data and make informed pricing decisions. Bootstrapped startups like you don’t have the same people, knowledge, resources and customers at your disposal. It becomes far harder to set a price point, let alone to foster full confidence that you picked the right price. Since you’re most focused on getting your product launched and out the door, determining price is urgent. In order to get to that number faster, let’s drastically simplify the pricing decision and focus on getting to a dollar amount you can confidently stick on your first proposal. This will ignore a host of complex pricing decisions – packaging, value metrics, freemium, discounting, etc. We’ll get to those later, but for now, let’s focus on a number. To decide on a launch price, you’ll need to quickly gather as much data as you can from four sources: industry benchmarks, competitive analysis, economic value analysis and market research. No data point is a single source of truth, rather you’ll want to stitch together the insights from across all four mixed in with the best judgment of your team.
Even if you launched your product with limited data, the good news is that you still have time to collect additional data and improve your pricing over time.
x.ai’s mission to build an autonomous AI agent is an undertaking that required about three years of intense R&D.
To follow through with this approach, x.ai had to raise substantial funds to validate the idea and build the initial model. And to sustain their efforts, they had to be sure to find customers not only willing, but eager to pay for the product.
To land on the perfect pricing plan, Stefanie Syman and Brian Coulombe, VP of Customer Experience & Communications and Customer Acquisition Director respectively, rolled out three pricing tiers. Here’s how they did it.
“It’s our mission to democratize the personal assistant,” says Syman. “That’s how we’ve thought about our product from its inception, and what flows out from that idea pretty immediately is the need for a price point that’s digestible to the professional individual.”
“Not only do we think that everyone should be able to have an AI personal assistant for meeting scheduling,” Syman explains, “we see x.ai as a core piece of the technology infrastructure in much the same way that email is a core piece of that infrastructure. It’s part of the suite of tools that you need to operate, to be a functioning professional, whether you’re a big-economy professional, the CEO of a startup, or someone more junior who is just entering the workforce.”
“Thinking about the problem with that mindset, knowing and believing that we’re actually changing norms in a way that email changed norms, leads you to quickly understand where you need to land on price in terms of scale,” Syman says. From there, the team was ready to dive into the logistics of the pricing problem.
“We are a very data-driven company,” says Coulombe. “And, we really did our research on pricing.” The team conducted in-depth research on customer personas and use cases and tapped beta customers for specific feedback on pricing scenarios. They used surveys as well as in-person, roundtable-type discussions to collect customer input, which was then factored into the development of the pricing structure.
‘We’ve spent the time to build a really nicely defined persona for our core customer,” says Coulombe. “We’ve clearly envisioned who that is and know details such as their job titles, company size, location, pain points and what it takes to get someone not only interested in the product but also willing to pay for the Professional (or mid-tier) edition.” To reach this initial group of beta customers, x.ai gained exposure through organic word of mouth as well as a formal referral program. “Many of our initial beta users were CEOs at small startups who were using Amy and Andrew to schedule meetings with people in similar roles at other companies,” Coulombe explains. “That was an effective way to get our product in front of more of the right people. We also started a program to reward our professional customers who referred us to colleagues.” The company also enjoyed some good press, but most of their beta user growth was the result of a product-led approach that focused on creating “scheduling nirvana” – or Amy-to-Amy meetings – for customers. “Growth has really been driven by our existing customer base encouraging other folks in their network to sign up,” adds Coulombe. Finally, the x.ai team also made use of the B2C2B approach. “Ours is one of those products that easily translates from someone starting the Professional edition, and then selling the product through to the rest of their team,” Coulombe says. “Once the team is using it, then other departments and company partners get wind of it, and before you know it we’ve onboarded a larger business.”
Whether considering individual or company-wide use cases, the x.ai team focused on delivering value as a key component of the pricing strategy. “We all know that no one, except maybe SVPs, gets a personal assistant anymore,” says Syman. “We also know from our research that the people with the most scheduling-related pain are among our most successful customers. For these people, our mid-tier price point is not a big deal because the product delivers a huge value (in the reduction of their pain) that greatly exceeds the actual price.”
The x.ai team uses a clear demonstration of this ROI in their marketing. “Emphasizing the ROI is one of the things that stands out as a total no-brainer,” says Coulombe. “If we agree that it typically takes about three-and-a-half five-minute emails back and forth to schedule a meeting, and we assume that you’re scheduling eight meetings a week, it’s simple to do the math and see that you’re spending close to ten hours a month just scheduling meetings.
“On top of those numbers, we can also add in the ‘switching’ cost, cognitively,” adds Syman, “of your day being constantly interrupted by endless chains of scheduling emails.”
By closely examining what each segment of x.ai’s target market would be willing to pay, the team was able to build out a pricing structure that delivered an irrefutable value to both the customers and the company. And while they are happy so far with the market response, they acknowledge that pricing is always a work in progress.
“In any pricing scenario, we do our best to make informed choices, but we don’t present our results as the perfect solution,” says Syman. “We used the data to make the best decision we could, but we expect the strategy to evolve.”
For now, however, both Syman and Coulombe feel like they’ve hit a sweet spot. “We are indeed a software company and not a service company,” Coulombe says. “We’re beyond something like Netflix or Spotify and more in the realm of Dropbox. Our price point fits nicely between being something that everyone can afford and really utilize and something that is so premium that only a few people can afford it.” And if the company’s wall of Love Notes is any indication, x.ai’s customers agree.
Tactic#26 - Ask for engagement
Saving your SaaS customers is no simple task. A list of “hacks” or “tricks” on the topic won’t cut it. That’s why I’m leading off with a highly advanced technique built on the topic of engagement.
In SaaS, engagement happens when a customer uses and gains value from the SaaS.Apptegic defines “customer engagement” as the nexus of a customer’s time and attention and your product.
However you choose to define it, engagement matters. Why? Because a customer who doesn’t use your product isn’t going to keep paying for your product. Think about it. If you pay 90€/month for a home cable subscription, but nobody in your home uses it, you’re going to cancel. Likewise, if your customers are not engaged — not using the service for which they are paying — then they will cancel.
Raw statistics prove this point. Totango surveyed over 1 million SaaS customers. Almost every cancellation was “preceded by a period of non-use”.
Lack of usage is the number one churn driver, according to research from Bluenose.
If a customer is actively using your product, they are unlikely to cancel their service. If, on the other hand, the customer doesn’t use your product then they’re going to pull the plug. It’s that simple.
One simple engagement metric islogin regularity. If a customer doesn’t log into their account for a period of three weeks, their usage level may be declining. This is the kind of information that could prove valuable as you analyze churn rate and identify metrics that correlate with reduced engagement.
Tactic#27 - Be proactive about expired or cancelled credit cards
Engagement is a wide arena. There are dozens of ways of tracking engagement, measuring engagement, and asking for engagement. I want to take you from the vast field of engagement to the narrow field of avoiding cancellation via credit card expiration.
If your SaaS uses recurring billing on credit cards, then this is a highly significant point. First off, here’s what you need to know about credit cards.
With these kinds of numbers, you will face expired credit cards on a regular basis. Expiration information is part of every card data, so you have this information to use as you wish. How should you use it?
Tell customers that their card is going to expire before it actually happens. Send an email or give them a phone call several weeks or months before the expiration date, reminding them that the card will expire.
Whether cancellations, blocks, expirations or some other weird credit card issues, it’s important to stay on top of it. Dunning emails may not be the most exciting part of SaaS customer retention strategy, but they sure are important.
Tactic#28 - Always be selling
What does it mean to “always be selling” as a SaaS? It means several things:
Let’s just make sure that we’re keeping our eye on the sales issue. The minute we start to let go of sales, we start to lose the edge that keeps customers coming back for more.
Tactic#29 - Improve the features that really matter
As your SaaS matures, you’ll find that some features are more important to your customers than others. As soon as that becomes apparent, make sure you’re improving the quality and power of those particular features. If you can make the best feature of your SaaS even better, then you’ll keep your customers from ever needing to cancel. Forentrepreneurs calls these features “sticky.” One sign of a sticky feature is one that embeds itself in the daily workflow of the customer. Not only does the customer become highly engaged (remember point one!), but they also become dependent upon that feature, thus lowering churn.
Tactic#30 - Upgrade the customer experience
It’s a mistake to think that your SaaS customers are in it only for the software. They’re in it for the experience, too. To persuade yourself of this point, consider how much of your SaaS is the service part. This includes the interface the software, its functionality, speed, features, cost, purchase process, renewal process, correspondence, customer service, and everything else that has anything to do with the entire SaaS. It’s an experience. All of it.
Tactic#31 - Give upgrades, discounts, or random rewards
One way to increase eagerness with your service is to have a sense of built in surprise or expectancy. Surprising customers is a proven way to increase satisfaction. In controlled tests, researchers discovered that when waiters gave customers a small gift (such as a mint), tipping was on average 23% higher for customers who were surprised by the gesture.
What kind of surprises can you give? Choose something that is relevant to your product, but make it meaningful. Here are a few options:
Surprising and delighting customers is solid business strategy. As a Salesforce guide puts it, “SaaS companies must delight their customers day after day to keep them coming back.”
Tactic#32 - Be totally transparent
Many customers are skeptical of SaaS companies. Here’s why. The average customer sees a piece of software that costs a lot, but doesn’t seem to require a whole lot of overhead on the part of the provider. Sure, there’s some development and marketing cost, but where is all the customer’s hard-earned money going? The skeptical customer raises an eyebrow, too, over any possible security breaches and opaque contract language. There’s one thing you can do to change the customer’s skeptical stance: Be totally transparent. Recent security breaches have taught the general public that they can’t trust big data companies.
They can’t trust any SaaS, for that matter. If their credit card information and social security number are just one click away from publicity, then why take the risk?
Transparency is the only way to overcome the skepticism and to build back trust. Here are some of the specific ways you can create an attitude of transparency:
Once you start achieving full transparency on every level of the business, then you start to gain the trust of your customers and prospects. The moment you reach that tipping point, your customers won’t even think of turning away.
Tactic#33 - Focus on retention optimization
For all the attention on conversion optimization, there’s a huge source of optimization that is right in front of you — retention optimization. Instead of the traditional A/B testing, retention optimization uses metrics such as user testing, customer surveys, and other customer-focused data.
Retention is not so much about optimizing the product as it is understanding the user. The Customer Success Association writes, “ It’s what you don’t know about your customer relationships that can cause you to lose them.” While new users are great, retained users are even better. The vast majority of your ongoing revenue stream is from existing users. Take a look at how this breaks down:
Simple retention rate improvements will powerfully impact your company.
Oh nice! You’ve made it to the end.
I hope you enjoyed reading this SaaS Growth Guide as much as i enjoyed writing it. Feel free to join us at the SaaS Growth Community: https://www.linkedin.com/groups/8953600/
Now, it’s all up to you: audit your existing growth strategy, and see if you can improve it using some of the strategies we covered in this guide.
And of course, if you think i missed something important, let me know:https://www.linkedin.com/in/yassir-haouati/
Defining a strategy is one thing. Executing it is something completely different. Do you need help putting what we just taught you to practice?
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