Effective SaaS marketing strategies can be hard to pull off if you don’t know where to start, but luckily, we’re here to help you accelerate product growth!
In this blog post, I’ll take you through the best strategies for a SaaS business are and show you the best examples from known SaaS brands.
Let’s get started.
- SaaS marketing is the marketing process applied to generate demand and drive adoption and retention for SaaS products and apps.
- SaaS best practices relate to specific strategies and tactics that you implement with clear goals in mind to influence growth across each stage of the user journey.
- Marketing SaaS products is different because you’re not selling a physical, tangible product, and quite often what you’re actually selling is a subscription, not the product itself.
- Customer acquisition best practices: embrace product-led, clear positioning, know your user persona, use content to drive trial signups and reduce CAC, and have a frictionless signup process.
- Free trial activation best practices: use welcome screens and segment your audience, personalize primary onboarding, use checklists to drive users to the activation point, use in-app guidance to shorten the learning curve, and gamify the onboarding experience.
- Adoption and customer success best practices: don’t forget about secondary onboarding, reward users for achieving milestones, celebrate successes with your customers, A/B test in-app experiences, and try using micro-videos to engage the customer.
- Customer retention best practices: launch new features in-app, gather feedback and close the feedback loop, build churn surveys and offer alternatives to canceling, implement self-service support, and build a community.
- Recurring revenue and account expansion: give users flexibility with other relevant SaaS integrations, user segmentation, offer trials to premium features, use automated in-app messaging for contextual customer expansion, and incentivize promoters to write in-depth product reviews.
What is SaaS marketing?
SaaS marketing is the marketing process and strategies applied to generate demand and drive adoption and retention for SaaS products and apps. Compared to traditional marketing, a successful saas marketing strategy focuses not only on the acquisition part but also on converting free trial account into paying customer.
What are SaaS best practices?
SaaS best practices are tried and tested SaaS industry strategies and tactics that you implement with clear goals in mind to influence growth across each stage of the user journey.
These depend on a variety of factors, including what your product is, who your target audience is, and which marketing channels offer your product a key advantage over your competitors.
Before diving into the SaaS best practices for customer acquisition, free trial activation, adoption and success, customer retention, and recurring revenue and account expansion, we’ve something important to keep in mind.
How is SaaS marketing different?
Traditional marketing’s main goals are building your product’s messaging and positioning, generating demand, and acquiring MQLs for the sales team. This is focused more on the acquisition side of the customer journey.
Marketing SaaS products in comparison uses the product as the main driver of acquisition. Meaning product marketers in SaaS companies focus on activation and adoption too.
Your goals as a product marketing manager are to drive trial signups and get the customer to experience repeated value from the product.
This leads to repeated purchases – AKA subscription renewal.
So let’s look at some examples of best practices that you can apply across each stage of the user journey.
SaaS marketing best practices for customer acquisition
The first step in the SaaS marketing funnel is simple – acquire customers. Let’s look at some SaaS marketing strategy best practices.
#1 – Embrace Product-Led
This is all about using your product as the primary driver of acquisition.
Embracing a product-led approach and focusing your marketing efforts on showing customers your product is a great product marketing strategy for increasing trial signups. It helps the user understand the value the product offers (their Aha! moment) and get to experience it faster.
We talked to the founder of a Shopify app that hit $25k MRR in under a year to see how he uses product-led marketing:
“When potential users arrive on the page of my app, we directly show them our app live. Since our app is visual (it’s a widget to display on the store) we have to show people how it appears. When they install, we try to make them add a bundle as fast as possible on their store so they can actually see the product live on their store and get their Aha! moment.
One of the metrics we tracked is the time it takes for a user to add a bundle. We took this from 15 minutes to six minutes which helped us increase our activation rate (just because they see the product live in their store sooner)”
– Mat De Sousa, Founder of Widebundle and CEO of TheWideCompany
#2 – Have a clear positioning
Positioning defines the context in which your product fits in your users’ minds. It outlines what your product is, who it’s for and what users can expect from your product.
Great positioning helps generate leads by attracting the right user persona, which increases acquisitions – aka users that start a trial. Being clear about what your product is from the outset reduces churn because a potential customer knows exactly what to expect and therefore isn’t disappointed.
#3 – Know your user persona
Knowing who your product is for – your user persona is a crucial part of an effective SaaS marketing strategy. It defines the right group of people that could benefit from your product, making marketing your product easier.
This is closely related to your SaaS customers’ jobs-to-be-done (what job is the use hiring your product for).
Understanding who your product is for and what motivates them helps drive growth and improve users’ product experience.
#4 – Use content to drive trial signups and reduce CAC
In SaaS, the main driver of trial signup relies on how much traffic you’re driving with your search engine optimization efforts and how good your website is at converting it.
Your content marketing strategy should focus on content that is actionable and helps the user. This will decrease your CAC (customer acquisition cost) since you’re not only attracting more readers but also giving them a reason to try your product.
Of course, what you do after (i.e activating and retaining users) will have a high impact too, but good and actionable content will bring in more qualified leads.
Making content one of your primary Saas product marketing strategy for acquiring customers should be part of your SaaS marketing plan. It’s a tested SaaS marketing strategy we apply at Userpilot too.
#5 – Have a frictionless signup process
A smooth signup flow is an important part of the user journey – it’s the first interaction new customers have with your product and how it’s designed impacts how potential customers will think about your product.
Don’t get me wrong, friction-based signups can work too. The Aha! moment is deferred but its major advantage of a friction-based signup process is that if a potential customer completes the whole flow, they’re more likely to become a long-term customer.
However, friction-based signups have limited successful signups and lots of dropouts, and the potential customers don’t get a chance to see the value of the product.
This is why frictionless signup flows have a higher signup rate. There’s no app that demonstrates this approach better than Airtable.
The registration process is so frictionless that a user can literally get successfully to the UI in less than 60 seconds.
SaaS marketing best practices for free trial activation
It’s important for the trial user to reach the activation point because that’s where they experience the full value of the product. Without this, chances of conversion to a paid account are pretty low if non-existing.
Let’s look at some of the best tried and tested SaaS marketing strategies for SaaS companies to drive users to the activation point.
#1 – Use welcome screens and segment your audience
Welcome screens are a fantastic way of collecting relevant information about your SaaS customers, besides greeting them.
Segment your audience and offer relevant content and personalized in-app onboarding experiences based on the needs you identified at their first login.
A great welcome screen is the first step in getting your potential customers to their Aha! moment.
Here’s an example from Postfity, a social media scheduling tool.
#2 – Personalize primary onboarding
What’s the secret to creating successful SaaS companies? A great onboarding experience. Primary onboarding is important for users to get to experience your product’s value.
Personalizing your SaaS customers onboarding to the user’s specific persona, role, goals, and use case will make your onboarding more relevant and thus more effective.
ConvertKit for example, lets their users choose their own journey.
#3 – Use checklists to drive users to the activation point
Once you have defined the activation point in the user journey for a specific use case/persona (aka what key product features do they need to engage in order to experience value), using a checklist to drive users there can be a great marketing strategy.
A great checklist guides your users through various tasks, allowing them to identify your product’s key features and get to their Aha! moment quicker, thus reducing TTV and avoiding customer churn.
#4 – Use in-app guidance to shorten the learning curve
The goal is to get users to experience your product fast, not sit and watch a presentation of all your product’s features.
Using interactive walkthroughs is a Saas marketing strategy that works well because it’s contextual. They’re easy to use when done correctly – like this example from Kommunicate.
#5 – Gamify the onboarding experience
Gamification uses game elements like points, badges, and extra privileges to incentivize the user to engage with product features. Done right, it can drastically increase product adoption and make the onboarding process more interesting because it encourages engagement in a fun and unique way.
ProdPad prompts users to engage more with their product and discover the value by offering extra free days. This is a win-win for both the user and ProdPad.
SaaS marketing best practices for adoption and customer success
A product has been adopted when the user has moved from trying the product to investing in it.
Let’s look at some examples of how SaaS companies can apply SaaS best practices to encourage adoption and customer success.
#1 – Don’t forget about secondary onboarding
Your SaaS marketing plan shouldn’t focus only on the primary onboarding – you want your users to get more value out of the product by discovering secondary features.
Most SaaS businesses forget about the user once they reached the activation point or after they’ve converted to paying customers. But since your product is in continuous development, you should make sure the user gets repeated value from your product on a continuous basis.
This is where secondary onboarding comes in. Your SaaS marketing team should focus on helping users discover and adopt secondary features that add extra value to existing customers.
#2 – Reward users for achieving milestones
Gamification – rewarding users for achieving milestones that make their experience more incentivized, fun, and/or competitive – is one of the most effective ways a SaaS company can drive engagement, increase conversion metrics, and keep users coming back again and again.
To put it simply: reach a milestone, get a badge, feel gratification and achievement/pride. This results in the user wanting to repeat actions that make them feel good, which leads to increased engagement that builds loyalty in the long run.
#3 – Celebrate successes with your customers
An effective way of creating a positive relationship with your customers is by celebrating successes with them. Doing this when completing a task or achieving a goal will help them feel good about your product and will encourage brand loyalty.
Take Asana’s unicorn as an example.
Whenever you accomplish a task within the app, a colorful unicorn riding a rainbow flies across your screen giving you a sense of pride for completing a task. This feel-good emotion makes us want to engage more with the product and get another dopamine dose.
#4 – A/B test in-app experiences
You should always be testing to see which experience drives more success towards your goals. It helps you to understand why users behave in certain ways.
Since different users engage differently with your product and in-app experiences, sometimes a simple checklist can work wonders when other times adding an incentive is a must in order to ensure success.
Start by clearly defining your goal. do you want users to discover a specific feature or engage with it? Do you want them to perform certain tasks in your product and become power users? Whichever it is, it’s important to define it clearly so you can track the impact your test had on achieving it.
You can easily do this with a product adoption tool like Userpilot. Set your goals using product usage events and other user attributes.
Then, after building an in-app experience flow meant to drive engagement, connect it to the goal. This way you can track how the flow is impacting your goal.
To start testing, use the Experimentation section in each experience flow settings section and this will automatically test the flow’s impact.
#5 – Use microvideos to engage the customer
Microvideos are short videos, about 30 seconds long that are used to engage and educate the customer. Each micro-video should be aimed at a specific target audience and focused on one action. For example, learning about a specific feature and how to use it.
Since user’s attention span is shorter and shorter, micro-videos are a great alternative to long written documentation for example.
Is your SaaS company using them? Here’s a great example from Monday.
SaaS marketing best practices for customer retention
Retention requires repeat engagement and product usage so the customer gets continuous value over time.
Customer retention costs vary but you can keep them low by applying some of the SaaS marketing best practices for retention described below.
Let’s have a look.
#1 – Launch new features in-app
For continuous value, existing users need to stay up-to-date with what’s new so they constantly discover new ways of using your product to achieve their job – this gives them no reason to look for an alternative product, thus your retain your customers.
A great way to keep users up-to-date is to launch new features in-app.
Your new in-app feature announcements should be non-invasive, engaging, and straight to the point so as not to irritate the user.
#2 – Gather feedback and close the feedback loop
Speaking of new features, the best SaaS marketing strategies will involve constantly collecting feedback from users to identify any friction points, such as issues with new features.
Acting on feedback and being in constant communication with your users regarding their feedback closes the feedback loop and makes users feel heard and valued – after all, without them, you wouldn’t have a product so their opinions and experiences matter.
There are multiple feedback tools you can use that are designed for collecting feedback through in-app or email surveys. If you want to collect, analyze and act upon the data you collect then a tool like Userpilot will help. You can launch in-app NPS surveys and track the score directly in-app – Then filter the responses and build custom user segments so you can respond with different tactics based on what the user feedback was.
#3 – Build churn surveys and offer alternatives to canceling
Churn surveys are a way of collecting feedback from users after they decide to cancel or downgrade their subscription plan with your SaaS product.
They can be sent via email or in-app and can include multiple-choice or open-ended questions – or both, depending on whether you want quantitative or qualitative data.
These surveys will help you figure out why users chose to cancel or downgrade so you can improve the product.
You can decrease churn by offering users an alternative to cancelation: for example, you could let them temporarily deactivate or pause their account for a limited amount of time.
Simply understanding the reasons users leave can help a lot, but offering an alternative to cancelation can actually help decrease churn on the spot. For example, you could let them temporarily deactivate or pause their account for a limited amount of time.
#4 – Implement self-service support
If it can take two clicks to find an answer to a query, why make the customer wait in line with your support team when you can facilitate in-app self-service support and let users find answers fast?
Self-service support leads to improved customer experience overall – users prefer finding information and/or solutions themselves.
In-app guides, help center, resource center, or whatever else you decide to call it, it’s still the same thing: a place to gather all the necessary resources for self-service support and customer guidance, inside your app.
This is not the same as your documentation or knowledge base that is accessed through your website – the nice part is that you can include this in your help center so instead of having to get out of the product, users have access to it inside the app.
It’s preferable that users don’t have to exit your app to search via search engines because they’re less likely to return to the app if they have to leave in the first place.
Here’s how a resource center looks like: add your documentation, guides, chat link or launch in-app flows that guide users through using your product. All inside the app.
#5 – Build a community
A community keeps you in constant communication with your users, which helps you understand their problems and help them out. It shows users that they have an important role in your software development – you’re building your product with them, not for them.
Users will feel supported and valued, even if they never require the assistance of the community – sometimes it’s nice just to know there is someone there if you need them.
Happy customers = customer retention, customer advocacy, and less churn. It’s a no-brainer.
SaaS marketing best practices for recurring revenue and account expansion
SaaS products are unique in that your marketing strategy needs to have a plan for after the customer becomes a regular user. And I’m not talking about referral marketing and focusing on getting users to tell their friends about your product.
We talked to serial entrepreneur Charlie Patel to see how he felt about account expansion:
“Regardless of whether your SaaS is in the early stage or growth stage, founders should be thinking about expansion MRR. While all applications will have a core set of features, to trigger expansion MRR from existing customers, additional value has to be delivered. This shouldn’t be confused with just holding back features from customers, but rather enabling upgrades that generate time or cost savings for them.
For example, a content writing tool may offer an SEO add-on to increase their LTV. An email validation tool may offer email sending features or a service such as monthly list building done for you. Another example is providing a secondary tool such as a Chrome Extension or plugin that further enables the customer. Understanding the various needs of your customers and what complementary services they’re already paying for will help drive the expansion offering to impact expansion MRR.”
Let’s have a look at some of the SaaS marketing best practices for generating recurring revenue and account expansion.
#1 – Give users flexibility with other relevant SaaS integrations
SaaS integrations are one of the most underused SaaS marketing strategies and it’s such a wasted opportunity! There are SaaS products out there that complement each other and SaaS marketers should be promoting this integration opportunity.
It makes the user’s workflow easier and puts your tool at the center – your product becomes a valuable and indispensable asset in their tool stack. With no integrations, it’s easier for them to look for alternatives that make their life easier.
A great marketing team will emphasize how SaaS integrations will benefit the user so they don’t look elsewhere.
Userpilot integrates with other apps that are mostly used by PMMs to simplify users’ daily workflows.
#2 – Use segmentation
Segmentation helps understand where a user is in their journey so you can build contextual account expansion opportunities – you wouldn’t ask a user to upgrade their account when they don’t really need to, right?
Slack is a brilliant example.
They segment their users based on product usage and prompt upgrades in a contextual way – when they reach a specific milestone (in this case, when they have sent 10K messages).
They include an upgrade button – ‘learn more’ – which makes upgrading frictionless – users don’t have to find their own way towards their pricing page or one of their landing pages, they just have to click a button.
#3 – Offer trials to premium features
If your business runs a freemium model, prompting users to trial new premium features (whether in-app or via email marketing) can drive account expansion. Once they’ve finished their initial trial and decided to stick around and use your product for free, you need to constantly give them reasons why they should upgrade – you can do this with free trials of premium features.
#4 – Use automated in-app messaging for contextual customer expansion
Contextual means the right message at the right time – i.e, automated messages when users perform an action to encourage customer expansion.
Intercom does this well. While engaging with a feature, a contextual tooltip mentioning the benefit of upgrading pops up.
It’s small, non-intrusive, and there at the right moment.
#5 – Incentivize promoters to write in-depth product reviews
How do you get them? Use incentives.
Offering incentives for their review gives the user a reason to do it and also builds loyalty and appreciation for your brand. It shows you care.
In-depth product reviews for software companies are the most effective when they’re on both official SaaS review sites such as G2 or Capterra and general review sites.
Since in-depth reviews require more effort, try using incentives to reward the user for their time.
There you have it!
Accelerating product growth by reminding users of your product’s value can be achieved when you apply SaaS marketing best practices to your SaaS marketing strategy.
All the information and examples in this article will help you know which best practices to apply to which stage of the user journey when creating your marketing plan.
Are you ready to get started and drive product adoption with in-app experiences? Get a Userpilot demo here.