A practical guide to SaaS marketing strategy

A practical guide to SaaS marketing strategy for start-ups

I’ve worked with a number of bootstrapped start-ups and while they are waiting for investment their marketing budget is normally limited. Because I’m weird, I actually enjoy getting the most out of a small budget. Here’s what I’ve found works well…

Please, please, please, before you start SaaS marketing do some homework. You don’t need to spend months building an in-depth marketing plan but you do need to gather basic data.

Take a look at my blog ‘What is B2B Marketing? And how to do it successfully‘ which includes a Lean Strategy template as well as a Plan on a Page.

Here’s what I do with a budget of £1,500 per month (costs correct at the time of writing.). The list below is also roughly the sequence in which I do things.

#1 Twitter polls

Twitter polls are a quick and inexpensive way for you to get feedback from your target audience. This can be useful for building your strategy and plan, but also great for creating unique content.

Be quick, don't wait for things to be perfect - somebody is working on an alternative to your SaaS

Ask your audience questions that have not been covered by other surveys. Unique is the key. As with all content marketing you want to teach people something they didn’t already know (or have read on another website).

To get 100-200 responses will probably cost £20-£50 and take about 3 days to get the results.

The drawback is that if you are targeting very niche markets it may not be possible to pinpoint them on Twitter. Try using follower lookalikes and

#2 Website

A key SaaS marketing tool and one that you need to get done pretty quick. But don’t wait for it to be perfect – launch something bad, quickly. Nothing digital is set in concrete, you can always amend it later.

There are platforms such as GoDaddy and Wix that will get you up and running pretty quick, but I prefer to use WordPress. Why? It’s easy to use, has lots of neat (free) plugins and is popular (so you will find it easy to hire staff with WordPress experience). Also, it’s pretty robust and secure.

In the first period of your start-up growth, you’ll need the website to generate leads. This is not a time to focus too much on branding. For more on this, check my article ‘How to turn your B2B website into a lead generation machine‘ that has an 11-point plan.

Ensure that what you say in other channels (e.g. email) matches what you say on your website. I’ve seen some bad examples of a disconnect.

#3 Data extraction

Your Twitter Polls and Lean Strategy document will have defined your target market. Now go get the data.

When you become the size of Microsoft or Apple you won’t need to do data extraction, because people will voluntarily give you their contact details. Until that day, you need to get down and dirty because you’re a start-up and nobody knows you.

I don’t have a problem with data extraction (scraping the internet for names and email addresses). Virtually every start-up has done it but now probably feels embarrassed to admit it. The question for many people is “Is it legal?”

The answer is Yes(ish).

It’s a wonderfully grey area and worthy of a blog article on its own (I will do one, promise). In the meantime, check these great pieces ‘Is web scraping legal?‘ and ‘The Complete Manual to Legal & Ethical Web Scraping in 2021‘.

Currently, there is no clear English case law on this issue.  However, there could be a problem if you have to login or click to accept Terms & Conditions (T&Cs) before accessing data. The likelihood is the website’s T&Cs prohibits data scraping. So the website owner will have a valid breach of contract claim.

However, most of the data you will need will be available without the need to log in or accept T&CsJust make sure your data extractor is aware.

I use Upwork.com to find data extractors in India, Bangladesh and Pakistan. I accept that 80% of the data they give me will be bad. That means they give me people I didn’t ask for, with contact details that are inaccurate and data that is out of date. So why use them? They’re cheap. £0.40p per record.

You will need to spend some time thoroughly checking the data they give you (and there is the cost of your time), but it may take two weeks to get and clean 200-400 names. If you want more tips on what data fields to get and some short-cuts on data cleansing book a free 1-hour consultation with me. Happy to help.

#4 Set up the reporting tools

Don’t skip this step. You want to get into the market fast, but if you are not getting reports on what’s working (or not working) you will ultimately fail. Here’s the list of the apps I use at the start of my SaaS marketing programme:

WordTracker – Find the words and phrases your audience use when searching for your type of product/service. You may be surprised.

Ahrefs / SEMrush – Find and correct any technical errors, also monitor your rating, backlinks and other metrics.

Google Tags – You will hopefully use a lot of code to measure the effectiveness of your website. Google Tag Manager is a tag management system, it holds all your tag code in one place and helps keep the file size small.

Google Analytics 4 – One of the tags you will want to add to your site is Google Analytics. I recommend using the latest version GA4.

Google Search Console – More specific than WordTracker, Google Search Console will tell you what words and phrases people used to arrive at your site.

Google Page Speed Loader – Gives you a score on how quickly your website loads on desktop and mobile. Page speed is one of the metrics Google use to rank your website (it also influences bounce rate).

#5 Initial SaaS marketing channels

There are many marketing tools for B2B start-ups and you will have your own favourites. This is my list. There are no wrong or right answers to which is the best mix.

CRM (Pipedrive) – I like using Pipedrive for start-ups as it is uncomplicated and easily understood/used by CEOs and Sales Execs. Hubspot and SalesForce are more sophisticated, but speed is the essence in a start-up and Pipedrive gets you up and running fast.

Email marketing (Mailshake) – Again, there are more feature-filled email platforms, but as a start-up, you want a platform that is easy to use and fast. Mailshake specialises in email sequencing and has great video tutorials.

LinkedIn – If they don’t respond to your emails, contact them on LinkedIn. LinkedIn is also a great source of sales data. I have used it for lead generation campaigns, but you need to keep tight control on monthly costs.

Connector (Zapier) – The brain that connects Pipedrive, Mailshake and LinkedIn. Occasionally it does fall over (but you’ll get an email telling you to reconnect), and I forgive it because it automates so many processes.

Twitter – Yes, you can use Twitter to connect with influencers and thought-leaders who may engage with your content. You could also target key prospects if they are identifiable and active on Twitter. But I find Twitter most useful for quick surveys as listed in #1.

YouTube – Different people consume information in different ways. I prefer graphics and video, you might prefer text. It’s important to publish your content marketing in all the forms available. YouTube is very cost-effective, you can easily get 1,000 views of your video for £50, and you can embed the video on your website.

#6 Get Listed

It’s important to ensure you are listed on some key websites. Crunchbase.com is a good place to start. Listing is free and it’s a portal used by potential investors as well as providing good backlinks to your website.

G2.com, Reviews.io and Trustpilot.co.uk are places where tech buyers go to check out SaaS with the highest ratings. Also ensure you are listed with the Gartner Digital Markets stable that includes GetApp, Capterra and Software Advice.

Summary

Be quick, don’t wait for things to be perfect – somebody is working on an alternative to your SaaS and they may grab the market first. Here’s how I typically spend £1,500 per month (costs correct at time of writing):

Pipedrive: £60 per month
Mailshake: £45 per month
Zapier: £45 per month
Data extraction: £200 per month
LinkedIn: £900 per month
Twitter polls: £50 per month
YouTube: £50 per month

These costs are all based on the assumption you have somebody in-house who is capable of setting up the marketing platforms, producing the content and managing all the channels… somebody like me 🙂

Want to learn more? Book a free 1-hour consultation.



Photo by Pickawood

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