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SaaS companies continue to grow at an unprecedented rate, and one of the main ways these companies gain leads are through paid online traffic sources. If you are a PPC specialist – or even a general digital marketer – you will inevitably run into an opportunity involving a SaaS company. The longer SaaS customer sales lifecycle also makes a methodical and measured approach to PPC advertising even more important. By knowing how to use all the tools and levers available in PPC platforms, SaaS marketers can stand out as superstars in the digital advertising game.
Every sector these days has SaaS products that improve business performance. Out with pen and paper, and in with automation. With these key points in mind, new SaaS products are being produced everyday, and pretty soon SaaS products will dominate how businesses are run.
Via Finance Online
Thusly, computer science jobs are on the rise, because you need programming skills to make the automation in business software products work. Additionally, once you have these said software products, you need to market them to make money.
And while SaaS products can live either on-premise or in the cloud, SaaS customers are all found on the internet, plain and simple. You’re not going to a brick and mortar shop to find the software you need to help take your business to the next level. On the contrary, you’re more likely to find a mobile application – or a mobile version – of the type of software your business needs while searching online.
The internet is where most SaaS buyers are aggregated, just waiting to be shown the right solution at the right time. However, knowing what to show and when to show it in terms of an advertisement for a SaaS solution takes an intimate knowledge of how SaaS products are adopted. Enter the SaaS customer life cycle.
Unlike a typical B2C product, B2B (and especially SaaS) products have longer customer life cycles.
Solutions are also very resource intensive. You have to teach people how to use the software system, which takes time and effort. There is also a built-in sunk cost to choosing a software system. Whether its a subscription service or a one-time purchase, you’re committing to one choice for a long while before you have the opportunity to choose again. It’s a bit like ending your free agency as a basketball player – it’s a pretty big decision.
This elongated customer life cycle has many implications. For one, you can’t jump the gun when trying to elicit a conversion or final purchase. There are many steps software buyers must take first before they are comfortable choosing a software solution, one of which is a research stage that is part of a longer awareness and evaluation stage that typifies the beginning of a sales funnel.
Prospects are generally not ready to buy right away, they’re just trying to learn about a topic and discover aspects of an industry. If you engage in a hard sell too soon, potential SaaS buyers will be turned off.
In an enlightening example, a SaaS provider switched from sending web visitors to a 30-day free trial to a live demo offer and doubled conversion rates.
This example speaks to the long game that SaaS PPC marketers need to play when formulating a holistic PPC strategy.
The importance of reeling in top-of-funnel prospects with offers that don’t ask for a hard conversion immediately cannot be understated. By providing educational content or resources that can be helpful, SaaS companies can – and need to – prove their authority before earning the trust of prospects.
Templates, toolkits, whitepapers, eBooks, webinars – basically anything to help professionals become more successful at their job – are resources that are valuable to any working professional. Educational content draws prospective users into your sales funnel. Check out an IBM landing page after I searched ‘cmms software’.
Instead of going for the hard sell immediately, you have to prove you’re a reputable and knowledge resource within your particular niche of the software industry. Here, IBM simply wants to explain to you what CMMS is, and if they can do that effectively, then perhaps they know what they’re talking about when it comes to producing an effective CMMS.
Another example could be in human resources. An HR software company can offer learning management criteria that are important when assessing the effectiveness of this type of program.
If these set of criteria turn out to be relevant and effective for an organization when they’re formulating and executing a strategy to keep their employees trained, they will think of you when they are looking for an automated solution to help streamline their learning management process.
I would post an example of this, except there wasn’t an example to be found of a software company playing the long game within the ‘learning management’ keyword ads. This could mean two things. One, there is still vast amounts of opportunity to out-market your competition by correctly defining customers in niche software system industries and dominate acquisition of leads with a more methodical and well-planned strategy.
It could also mean that free trials and demos are all you really need in software sales in the learning management space. It is important to test out hypotheses and to not jump to conclusions when assessing the effectiveness of marketing tactics. PPC is built for testing because you get instant feedback on various parameters of your marketing campaign. Use the ease of testing within PPC to test ideas and get validated answers.
Focus on top-of-funnel keywords that indicate problem discovery to show educational content that will help elevate you to a position of authority. Show bottom-of-funnel keywords that indicate buying intent – such as ‘pricing’ or ‘demos’ – offers that help steer prospects toward making that final purchasing decision.
It is a simple concept, but because of the elongated buying cycle, it is important to show the right offer at the right time. If you don’t, you run the risk of alienating a prospective buyer, or you’ll miss an opportunity to build trust with a user before they actually make a purchase. Segmenting out your keyword list will go a long way to creating structure – and ultimately, success in your SaaS PPC marketing efforts.
LL Cool J said in his 90s classic “Hey Lover” that ‘if his love is real he gotta handle competition’. That truism applies to the relationship SaaS products have with their users. As you can see, the competition is fierce for B2B software.
Even after you’ve acquired a user, the churn rate of a software system is a never-ending concern for SaaS companies. However, you can equally see this as a glass-half-full or glass-half-empty situation.
The flipside to the dreaded churn rate is that SaaS buyers are constantly on the lookout for improving their business process. The truth is that certain products will rise to the top and others will not meet consumer demands.
Focus on your differentiators so you don’t appear like the rest, as in the example above. While the buying life cycle can be long and represent a big commitment, these days subscription services make it easy for a software buyer to change their minds.
It’s also important to analyze your competition. What are their PPC tactics? What offers are they using that you haven’t considered? PPC, more than anything, is about continual testing to see what works – and there is no intellectual property on marketing tactics. Think about how you can tailor your competition’s marketing ploys to your own product.
Indeed, you can even take copying a step further, as the great Neil Patel advocates for in one of his articles.
Neil makes the case that you should not just tweak a marketing tactic to suit your own product, but rather, exactly replicate your competition’s best campaigns.
Neil makes the claim that the best marketers are not afraid to note – or admit the genius of – a certain piece of content and give due credit to the ideas of their best competition. As long as you give credit and they’re getting more recognition, how mad will they actually get that they’re getting referenced for their savvy ideas?
In turn, you also look smart for recognizing great ideas. Here is a great example for the blog articles that I write. I do keyword research and find the top articles that Google has ranked for a specific set of keywords, and I try to improve on the writing of those articles – or at least give credit to ideas that I mention in my articles.
Via Neil Patel
While high ranking ads won’t necessarily lead you to the top ad copy and offers within your niche of the software industry, you’ll at least have more ideas to test.
Also, you can use your intuition to suss out the great ideas from the simply good ideas.
NBA analysts often talk about the ‘eye test’, which is the counterpoint to a statistics heavy way of looking at the professional basketball game these days. Statistics can be a great way to analyze and understand the game, but the eye test takes into account everything that happens that leads to the outcomes. This context is important when understanding results or outcomes – and can sometimes be even more important.
Likewise, you can use Google’s rankings and take into account the top ads that are showing for particular keywords, but you also need to apply the eye test – or a critical evaluation of whatever you’re looking at. Whether it is ad copy, offers, landing page copy, etc., your marketer’s intuition also has a lot of ‘data’ behind it.
The idea of segmentation is repeated often throughout this article, but it is simply a staple of good PPC campaigns.
When you can properly split up your audience based on your sales funnel and match the offers to each stage in the sales funnel, then looking back on campaign performance to find new insights and ways to improve becomes easy.
With all the different types of campaigns you could be running based on the various aspects of software functionality you have available and the numerous sectors you could be advertising to, the number of campaigns can get out of control fast. By having a process to your segmentation, including naming conventions, your PPC life will simply be easier and more organized.
AdHawk’s blog has a great illustration of what a greatly segmented PPC/digital marketing program looks like and what a scattered and unorganized campaign structure with minimal segmentation processes in place looks like. This image should be motivation enough to figure out your segments.
We talked earlier about jumping the gun on advertising offers like free trials or demos and the nuance between them in terms of the reaction they can get from prospects, depending on where they are within your customer sales funnel.
Regardless of where you end up using these tried and true marketing offers, you still need to use them in the software industry. Giving away free stuff works and sophisticated users with time will simply want to actually use your SaaS solution before firing away.
Via Neil Patel
Using your content to build trust with your audience is the first step. After you have given the prospective buyer enough value through educational content and resources, get that contact information so that you can follow up. The longer buyer cycle generally requires a conversation or consultation, and that contact information is a crucial – and almost mandatory – aspect of SaaS marketing.
This concept is repeated and hammered home in almost every aspect of PPC marketing, from landing pages to ad copy to every other variable that you can change within a campaign.
However, the importance of testing cannot be understated. You constantly have to stay ahead of the increasing competition and in order to do that, you need to constantly test different aspects of your campaign. Which offers are working the best for which parts of your sales funnel? Which ads get the highest click-thru-rates? Which landing pages are getting the highest conversion rates? Which audiences create the highest qualification rates? Which keywords are producing the highest quality leads?
Lead quality matters. There is a difference between a customer that stays with the company for 5 years as opposed to 2 years. There is a difference between attracting software buyers that need capabilities for 1-20 users as opposed to 100-150 users. Those numbers can make a big difference in revenue. It is important to constantly test your assumptions and gather more information on how your marketing efforts are performing so that you can maximize the ROAS (return on ad spend) of your PPC budget.
If you don’t have a complete understanding of the software, your messaging will sound generic. But, if you understand every facet of the software, you’ll know the differentiators, unique selling points, and the big value propositions that your software brings to clients.
Talk to sales people, participate in the onboarding process, sit in on the demo process for prospective clients, and consult with your customer success/ support team. What are the pain points of software buyers/clients throughout each process. Were their expectations met, exceeded, or let down? What do clients ask about the most? What objections do the sales team encounter the most?
All of the answers to these questions – and more – will help you to speak to prospective software buyers better, to stay ahead of their objections instead of always trying to catch up with information.
These days, you don’t even need a website to generate leads for your SaaS business. Obviously, you want and need a website, but in order to get contact information, you can use the tools available inside platforms such as Facebook and LinkedIn.
Lead Ads on Facebook and Instagram allow you to capture user information from those who are interested in your product. This give you the ability to contact them later about your business.
Tools like Facebook’s Lead Ads take a step out of the process of gaining crucial user information. Little edges, like taking a step away from the conversion process, can make huge swings in conversion rate.
Additionally, SaaS companies looking to generate leads can customize questions within the lead form, easily download leads, and also integrate leads with their CRM for analytics purposes.
LinkedIn also provides similar solutions for SaaS companies to acquire leads within their platform – without the need to send users to their website. One of the best aspects of LinkedIn Lead Generation Ads is that user data automatically populates into the form when a prospect clicks on your ad.
This is a huge hurdle to overcome when gathering a user’s information. Since much of the information is already available within LinkedIn’s database, LinkedIn prospects are more likely to submit contact information that is already part of a third party system like LinkedIn.
Not only does this lower one of the biggest barriers to filling out a contact form, but the accuracy of the information is higher, which means a greater likelihood of reaching the prospects for follow up.
If you don’t take advantage of the paid media platforms’ lead generation options these days, you’ll not only have to worry about landing page optimization, but also form optimization. Form optimization is an entire field of digital marketing on its own, but because lead generation is so important in the SaaS marketing process, it is worth mentioning the important aspects of form optimization as they relate to SaaS lead generation.
It is important to make the process of acquiring contact information as easy as possible. Any misstep can cause a user to bounce, and that is a disaster. You have spent so much time and money to get the user on your page, and because of a hiccup in the forms, you could be left without the most important piece of the puzzle.
This seems obvious because of their user base and the tools we’ve already mentioned, but it is worth reiterating how embedded LinkedIn is nowadays to the entire professional experience and B2B advertising success.
LinkedIn’s user base is uniquely tailor made for B2B businesses – like SaaS companies. Not only do they have lead generation tools, but they have the targeting to make lead generation a highly profitable endeavor.
They also have the ability to analyze your website traffic in terms of LinkedIn user characteristics using their lightweight Java code, which is easy to install on your website.
With this pixel or tracking code installed across your website, you are able to gain insight to your website visitors in terms of LinkedIn’s criteria like job titles, industry, seniority, etc. This is huge for understanding your website visitors in the context of information that normally wouldn’t be available to you through typical website analytics platforms, like Google Analytics or even GA’s premium options.
Remarketing in the SaaS industry can be as simple as showing a free trial offer to those who have already visited your website. Some companies get away with simplistic strategies even with the complexities that exist within the elongated sales funnel process.
Other niche SaaS sectors have well thought out offers for each segment of the sales funnel and use specific conversion windows – and even view-thru conversion windows – to hyper-target their top-of-funnel users and drive them down their sales funnel in a methodical way.
There is no right or wrong answer to how you remarket to a SaaS audience, you just have to do it.
Acquiring contact information from prospective buyers can be like pulling teeth. Consider micro conversions, such as just an email address, and use the email list to nurture leads until they are ready to make a purchase. It is so much easier for prospects to provide just an email address, but an email addresses is still a meaningful way that a customer allows you into their life.
Via Fresh Egg
You can use various types of email marketing to disperse useful information, to highlight significant updates to your software, or to just give yourself kudos through testimonials.
Email lists have a built-in opt-in because customers have given you permission to reach back out to them however you see fit. Get creative in how you interact with your prospective buyers – and always keep an eye towards that final conversion, no matter how long it takes.
Colors, slogans, and fonts should all match across platforms and types of ads, from display to video. Even the wording in your text ads should be consistent. With the multi-channel world we live in, customers might see a brochure highlighting your company at a conference, then see a display ad for a video tutorial, and then a mobile ad remarketing a free consultation.
Make sure there is a connection that resounds in the logos, copy, and other branded elements to create a consistent experience.
The mobile era is in full bloom – and SaaS buyers are no exception. More B2B purchasers than ever are doing research on their mobile phones. Mobile search has long surpassed desktop, and it won’t be long before all research and purchasing is done on our ever growing-in-power mobile phones.
Mobile PPC strategy is simply PPC strategy now, and it does not apply to only certain sectors. It simply must be implemented. With even more sophisticated and savvy SaaS companies reaching the marketing and gaining investment capital everyday, having a clean mobile site that loads fast and is user-friendly (aka mobile responsive) is a must.
Via Conversion XL
Check out this progress screen for a conversion process for a B2B product, which could easily be SaaS pricing questions. The progress bar helps temper the impatience that epitomizes humans these days. The big icons with clear descriptions work well for a small mobile screen.
SaaS companies are showing strong signs of growth – without any deceleration in the near future. If you can master the process of PPC to SaaS companies, you will always have opportunities based on your experience. However, remember to cater to the niche audience of the specific software system. Each user of each system is unique, and the better you understand the prospective buyer granularly, the better you’ll succeed at SaaS PPC.