In the fast-paced, often saturated B2B SaaS market it has become increasingly difficult to make your product stand out. Many companies look for that one golden growth hack but end up wasting money on ineffective strategies all across the board.
In this article, we will be taking a look at:
- What B2B Growth marketing is and which strategies can be applied for SaaS businesses
- How to Develop a B2B SaaS Marketing Strategy of Your Own
- Which Metrics to Look at and How to Monitor Your B2b Saas Marketing Performance
Below you’ll find a long list of SaaS growth strategies based on our own extensive experience working in growth for dozens of B2B SaaS startups. They are focused on proven and repeatable tactics, not on aiming for that one-in-a-million virality tactic. The tactics below will help you predictably scale your business.
Although some of these strategies can be considered overall marketing tactics, the majority of them would be categorized specifically as B2B SaaS growth marketing tactics. The differentiation is that they don’t only focus on awareness and consideration, but also on conversion, activation, renewal, and referral. They’ll basically cover any growth hacks that can add to your bottom line revenue growth.
Some Basic Tips Before Diving In
- Focus on getting the basics right before considering more resource-intensive and exotic growth strategies. Basics include SEO, PPC, Email, Lead nurturing & CRO.
- Aim for virality but only as a fringe activity. Instead, focus on sustainable compounding growth.
- Continuously hone your tactics. They are not of the set & forget type. You’ll continuously need to learn and improve.
Conversion & Adoption
SEO & Content Strategy
Work out a content strategy for your b2b SaaS startup. SEO requires an investment in both time and resources but if done well, it will easily repay itself many times over and most likely become one of your strongest SaaS growth tactics.
- These days SEO can be approached in an incredibly analytical way. Make sure to do extremely thorough keyword research (Traffic, Keyword difficulty, Search Intent, etc.). Use tools like Ahrefs to understand the competitive landscape and your potential to rank for certain keywords. Analyze what competitors and alternatives rank or don’t rank for
- Focus on pain point SEO to attract qualified visitors that are already at the bottom of the funnel. Avoid focusing too much on topics that are top of funnel and will generate traffic but not leads.
- Avoid focusing on vanity metrics, and measure your performance in qualified leads or signups generated, not by keyword rankings or visitors. Go for quality over quantity and rather write one long, well-researched, and well-written blog post per month than 2 mediocre blog posts on a weekly basis.
- Each of your content pieces should have a clear purpose. A. Content to generate new traffic through SEO or B. Thought leadership content to convert existing traffic into leads.
- Focus on backlink building. Strategic backlink building is key to getting your chosen keywords to rank. High-quality content will get organic backlinks but you’ll need a boost. Do proactive backlink building and guest blogging outreach or work with a backlink building agency to build them for you.
Software Comparison Websites Presence
These days, a good presence on software comparison websites will give you more visibility, a sustainable inflow of new leads, and help you convert doubters already using your product.
- The 3 most important websites to build out your presence are g2.com, capterra.com, and getapp.com. If you want to pick one to get started, go with g2.com.
- If you have an existing user base, incentivize them to review you on these websites. Amazon vouchers work great, but why not use product-specific incentives like a discount, free feature upgrade, etc.? Set up automated campaigns to target new users. Try to use NPS to filter out unhappy users.
Many B2B SaaS businesses give cold outreach a go but fail because they didn’t put in enough effort to get it right. If done well, it’s a very powerful B2B growth channel that can almost instantly add to your bottom-line ARR.
- Getting a well-researched list or database is responsible for 70% of your success with outbound email. Don’t use existing services that will sell you leads but put effort into your own data mining. Plenty of tools (like Hunter & BuiltWith) will allow you to get to leads no competitors have gotten to. Make sure you understand the difference between Lead Generation and Demand Generation.
- Make sure you have a crystal clear understanding of your Ideal Customer Profile, your Unique Selling Points, and how they apply to any of your market segmentation. This understanding forms the basis of writing great converting copy.
- Get the technical setup right. You want to automate as much as possible by using a tool like Quickmail or Woodpecker. Consider using a look-a-like domain to protect your real domain.
- Use other channels to complement email. Set up automated LinkedIn outreach (using tools like meetalfred.com) or consider simultaneously targeting your lead database with Paid ads on Facebook or LinkedIn.
Your business most likely has some natural candidates to partner up with. Just like you, these businesses are probably looking for further growth and if they’re SaaS companies too, there is a natural fit.
- Consider any companies your own product can be used alongside. The most natural fit are products you integrate with.
- If your partner has a marketplace or ecosystem with apps, be sure to build your presence there. This can be a great source for generating new leads and can really boost your brand awareness.
- If the partner is approachable, consider contacting them for comarketing initiatives. Examples include guest blog exchange, mentioning each other’s product in your onboarding workflows, etc.
Quora, Reddit & Product Hunt
Building out your presence on these 3 will lead to valuable backlinks, high-quality referral traffic, and overall brand awareness.
- Look for relevant questions and discussions on Quora & Reddit and engage with them. Don’t be too promotional but don’t shy away from mentioning your product.
- Plan your launch on Product Hunt. Avoid launching too early on Product Hunt and wait till you have at least somewhat of a community. They are the ones that will make your launch a success and get you in front of thousands of new users.
SEO takes time. PPC can get you instant results. Although some SaaS startups think they need a big budget to get started, this is simply not true. PPC often even has one of the quickest ROIs.
- Start off with Google Ads. It’s generally the sure-fire way to connect with prospects with the right search intent. Again here, very thorough keyword research is key. It will make or break your campaigns.
- If you have well-written pain point SEO-focused content, use Facebook and LinkedIn to target carefully segmented audiences. Avoid going straight for signups at first touch.
- Use retargeting on several levels. Have campaigns set up for visitors that did not convert to a lead, campaigns for signups that are in trial, and campaigns for expired trials that didn’t convert to a paid customer.
- Make sure to implement product adoption metrics that give you an indication of the quality of the signup or lead asap. You don’t want to have to wait till customer conversions to get an idea about the performance of your PPC campaigns. Ideal metrics are focused on product activation.
Deal Websites Like AppSumo
AppSumo lets you offer your SaaS product to a huge audience in return for a steep discount, often in the form of a lifetime deal. It’s a great way to gather a fanatic fanbase consisting of thousands of users in just a couple of days. The downside is the loss of potential future ARR from the same userbase.
- A couple of different options to consider: appsumo.com, saaspirate.com, stacksocial.com & pitchground.com.
- When putting together a deal, make sure to run through all legal stipulations. It’s important to clarify exactly how future plan upgrades and new features will be in or excluded. You wouldn’t want to give away lifetime deals for next to nothing with unlimited access to your product.
- Best is to see your newly acquired user base as a way to gather product feedback and a way to create brand awareness. They are generally very happy to engage (e.g. reply to surveys, leave reviews, etc.). They tend to be more price sensitive, so campaigns to try to get them to upgrade (and get them on ARR) are often less successful.
Conversion & Adoption
The benefit of CRO for B2B SaaS startups is obvious. It’s one of the simplest SaaS growth hacks with the quickest and easiest to measure returns. Whatever stage you are at, or how great your website is, there is always room for improvement.
- When you’re business is just starting off and isn’t receiving much traffic, make sure to test big changes. Don’t go for tiny changes like a different font or color shade. If your traffic is low, you won’t notice any difference in conversions. And if you would, it wouldn’t be statistically significant.
- Make sure to have multiple types of lead capture. Don’t just offer people to sign up for your product but make sure to have offers with a lower barrier of entry like signing up for a newsletter, an eBook, an upcoming webinar, etc. Use slide-ins or popups where appropriate but avoid being too aggressive with them. Limit the data you require during lead capture.
- Use a behavior analytics tool like Hotjar or Crazyegg to understand how users behave on your site and where they get stuck.
- Categorize the different types of Call To Action’s (CTAs) you have, i.e. Top, Middle & Bottom of the funnel, and make sure to use them accordingly. Don’t use bottom-of-funnel CTA’s in top-of-funnel blog posts or vice versa.
- Guide visitors through the funnel when they visit your website. When first-time visitors visit your website to read a top-of-funnel blog post, the aim should be to get them to read a mid-funnel blog post next, not to get them to sign up for your product straight away.
- Use social proof to win over interested prospects. Testimonials from happy customers work great. The more personal the better. Case studies & success stories tend to perform great too.
- Once you have a sufficient amount of traffic, consider using a chatbot. These can both save you time and help you generate more leads.
Lead nurturing should be seen as preparing your top-of-funnel leads to get them to try out your product. Many prospects will not have heard about your company before, so they’ll need to be warmed up. B2B SaaS businesses focusing on SEO and Content for growth need to have a good lead nurturing strategy implemented.
- Make sure you’re not too pushy or salesy straight off the bat. Give your leads more before you ask something of them (like trying out your software). Give them more exciting content, invites to webinars, etc.
- Don’t overdo it and blast them with emails but don’t wait too long with getting in touch either. Always make sure to have a clear CTA in your touchpoint. Get these CTAs to lean more towards the bottom of the funnel when they show more and more engagement.
- Use a CRM or Marketing Automation tool. It’s worth investing in a decent solution. Trying to stitch something together will cost you in the long run.
- Start simple but expand on your lead nurturing over time. Segment flows based on e.g. buyer persona, type of first conversion, etc.
Your product onboarding will set the tone for the relationship between your userbase and your SaaS company. It’s often one of the most overlooked B2B growth tactics as a lot of companies just seem to think their users will just figure it out. However, the correlation between the % of users that activates on your product and your bottom line ARR should be obvious.
- Define the key steps a user should take to be able to take full advantage of your product. Ideally, these are sequential and clearly trackable (e.g. through a tool like Mixpanel). If certain steps are not critical to activate on your product, try to categorize them in perceived value or importance (e.g. low – medium – high)
- Use tooltips and in-app flows to guide people in the right direction directly in your product. Segment users asap if you have clearly different ICPs.
- Feed your product usage data in your marketing automation tools so you can trigger email sequences based on product actions. E.g. if a user gets stuck on step 3 out of 5, have a triggered email going out 2 hours later with resources on how to complete step 4.
- Use automated surveys to gather feedback on where and why people get stuck during the onboarding process. Bonus: Incentivize people to fill them out by offering a small discount and improving your conversions at the same time!
Customer Lifecycle Marketing
Lifecycle marketing should be a crucial growth tactic for SaaS companies. If done correctly, it should help engage leads & convert them into paid customers, increase revenue from your existing customer base and turn them into brand advocates.
- Use HubSpot’s 6 stages to guide your customer lifecycle marketing. They are: Awareness, Conversion, Purchase, Activation, Renewal & Referral.
- Tailor your communications to the stage your customers are in, making sure to always add as much value as possible. E.g. use easily accessible content to educate your leads during the awareness phase, focus on product onboarding & activation during the purchase & activation phase, etc.
- Use lead scoring to help understand which stage your leads or customers are at. Make sure to segment your users according to your buyer profiles and overlay this on top of your customer lifecycle marketing.
Affiliates, Referrals, & Experts
Affiliate marketing relies on other people to help spread the word about your SaaS product. It’s a B2B growth tactic that can be difficult to get off the ground but which can have a huge upside because of its low direct cost and high conversion rate.
- Make sure you clearly outline your target ICP for your affiliates. Many B2B SaaS companies don’t specify this enough, invest a lot of time in referral marketing and end up getting the wrong type of referrals.
- Use a SaaS tool like referralcandy.com or affise.com to streamline your operations. It will save you hours of time by making it easier for you to manage all your partners in one place and will allow you to track referrals in detail so you’ll know which partners bring in valuable new business.
Building A Community
Building a genuine community (one that’s not just a basic mailing list) can be hugely more successful than other growth tactics. If you get it right, people will be getting value from each other and they will become the driving force behind your product growth. They’ll come back day after day because they want to, not because they feel forced through extensive retargeting.
- Start off by figuring out if your SaaS product lends itself to building out a community. Generally, the more time can spend in your product and the more extensive use cases it has, the more likely it is that you can form a community around it. If you have an uber simple set and forget product, it’s less likely to get lots of engagement.
- Use social media like Facebook and LinkedIn groups but go beyond that. Slack channels or tools like Vidyard.com and tribe.so work great these days and will help build a home for your community.
- Make sure to have extensive onboarding guides on your website. Consider setting up certification courses or an academy and allow members to add content themselves.
Experiment With Your Pricing & Packaging
Once you have decent traction, experimenting with pricing is one of the best opportunities for revenue growth in the B2B SaaS industry.
- You’ll need to be able to gather data in a structured and reliable way. So, make sure you have accurate tracking on the full funnel (from visit to ARR). You need to take every conversion into consideration. If you raised your pricing, your lead-to-customer conversion might stay the same but if your visit-to-lead conversion dropped you might still lose.
- Try to quantify your visitors in ARR to get a full understanding of your pricing changes on your bottom line revenue. Look at #visitors x visit-to-signup-rate x signup-to-customer-rate x ARPA and compare it over time to see the full effect of pricing changes. Try not to use old data as the quality of traffic will definitely vary over time.
- Use a subscription analytics tool to help you understand & calculate your SaaS unit economics. A tool like Profitwell or ChartMogul will simplify keeping track of your metrics and will let you slice & dice your data however you want.
- Try to implement pricing plans that easily scale with use. We’re not just referring to the typical starter/ pro plans. Find a pricing metric you can implement that can almost scale indefinitely and really reflects the value someone gets out of your product.
Freemium or Free Trial
Most B2B SaaS startups either offer a free trial, a freemium version of their product, or a combination of both. Unless you’re selling a very complicated enterprise-facing product you should consider doing the same.
- A free trial is generally the safer option to go with. A freemium product can be one of the driving forces behind a great Product-Led-Growth strategy but it can easily backfire and cannibalize your bottom line ARR if you’re not careful.
- The standard would be to offer a trial for 14-days and to not ask for payment details. There are many long discussions to be found about the pros and cons of the above but in our experience, it’s best to keep it simple and avoid a steep barrier to entry.
- Freemium can work great, but you’ll want to make sure you have strong enough USP for your paid plans. Freemium can of course be a great way to sacrifice some revenue to create brand awareness at scale at an early stage.
Upgrade & Retention Automation
There are multiple tactics to improve retention and increase ARPA. Most can be at least partially automated. Net revenue retention is seen as the holy grail to growing SaaS businesses, don’t miss out by only focusing on new business ARR.
- Automate as much as possible but avoid losing the human touch. Combine automated triggers with personal outreach. E.g. use churn indicators to flag accounts to your customer success team. They can decide which accounts should get reached out to personally.
- Use a tool to identify delinquent churn. Apps like profitwell.com will allow you to identify customers whose credit cards are about to expire and have automated outreach in place to prevent cc bounces.
- Keep track of upcoming yearly renewals for large customers. It’s worth going to extra mile to give them that little extra motivation to renew.
- Use a system to track customer health (e.g. based on product usage and NPS). Use this data to flag accounts to your customer success team or automatically send out messages.
- Work out automated campaigns informing customers about other features to get them to try out different parts of your product.
Offer Full Self-Service
Focus on setting up full self-service for your SaaS product. At least for your lower-tier customers. More than 80% of customers prefer to try out your software and make their own buying decision as opposed to having to get in touch with you. Make sure you give them this option.
- Be sure to make signing up for you SaaS or for a trial as easy as possible. Give people the option to subscribe themselves through a payment gateway (you’d be surprised how many early-stage SaaS companies work through back-and-forth emails!). Optimize your product onboarding by gathering feedback and analyzing where people get stuck.
- Utilize in-app messaging to guide your users when they need it most. Follow up with automated email messaging for less critical steps.
- Gather all recurring questions and create an extensive database with self-help articles. Automated chatbots can definitely help channel users with difficulties to the right articles.
A good viral loop should accelerate referrals through a SaaS company’s own users. It basically relies on your customers spreading the word to their network. They’ll, in turn, become customers and spread the word to their network.
- Virality needs to be built into your product. The products that lend themselves best are SaaS that is not built for a single user but is to be used simultaneously. Sharing your product should be natural. The user sharing your product should be getting an advantage when their network also starts to use your product.
- Consider incentivizing your userbase to share your product by giving away free consumption of your product or free features. Look at how e.g. Dropbox incentivized its users to refer their friends and get free space.
Gathering feedback at every stage of the funnel is often overlooked by early-stage SaaS companies. The truth is, though, that if you don’t do this you’re bound to make some costly mistakes and will be leaving bottom line ARR on the table.
- Try to gather feedback at any stage. Why did new signups never manage to activate on your product? Why did the ones that did activate not convert to a paid customer? Why do 10% of your new customers churn within 2 months? What would convince your existing customers to upgrade to your enterprise plan?
- Use automated marketing emails to send out simple surveys to your users. Keep it simple and incentivize them with software freebies or amazon vouchers. Consider using your incentive as a hook to get them to convert to paid customers. Win-win.
- If you are trying to gather feedback of visitors before they convert, consider using tools like Hotjar or Crazyegg.
ICP & Buyer Persona
We’re often surprised how few B2B SaaS startups actually have a good understanding of their Ideal Buyer Profiles and how even less have it clearly documented. We firmly believe that without detailed ICPs large part of you growth marketing hacks will be wasted.
- Focus on firmographics and quantitative data to form your ICP. You’re ICP should be formed by data that you can easily use for creating lists to target. Vague data points often seen with personas (like “likes dogs”) don’t help.
- You should be able to hand over your ICP to a lead gen firm and they should be able to come back to you with the perfect lead database without further instructions. Having an ICP that’s this detailed will prove invaluable for any growth marketing efforts.
- Make sure to work on your USPs and Value Proposition and how they apply to your different buyer profiles. The Features – Advantages – Benefits (FAB) model is a very helpful framework to help understand which features are core for which buyer persona and what the relevant messaging should focus on.
- If you’re certain about you product/market fit but not about your ICP, cold email and automated LinkedIn messaging can be a great tool to refine your ICP. Few B2B growth marketing techniques can be as targeted as cold outbound.
SaaS Stack & Automation
Streamlining your Operations as a SaaS startup is simple and will not only lead to a better customer journey, but will also save you valuable time and lead to less loss of data.
- Take your time researching which tools you want to use. The costs of switching between SaaS after you’ve fully adapted them can be high. Look at cost but keep in mind that cost savings early on can lead to inefficiencies and larger expenses further down the line.
- Use a stack that either has great native integrations or that can be closely integrated through integration tools. There’s nothing worse than having disconnected silos in your SaaS stack.
- Start automating early on. Automate your emails and sequences, automate your billing, automate your analytics & reporting. The more you have running on autopilot the more time you have to focus on other growth initiatives or on improving your product.
- If you are strapped for cash look at lifetime deal websites like Appsumo, Saaspirate or Stacksocial Here, you can easily pick up great SaaS tools for next to nothing.
Tracking & Reporting
At the core of every great B2B growth marketing strategy, you’ll generally find an exceptional tracking and reporting engine. Growth should always be data-driven, never based on hunches, and for that, you need to have the framework in place that allows you to slice and dice your data in any way you want it.
- You’ll want to make sure to have full-funnel tracking. You need to be able to backtrack every $ in new ARR to the visit it came from. Even beyond that, you should be able to connect churn and retention to the original source it came from.
- Use UTMs to identify source, medium & campaign for new visits and leads so you can attribute your new ARR to the right sources, and calculate CAC & ROI per channel.
- Link up your product usage data to your analytics so you can model feature usage and their link to monetization. Use this data to design great product onboarding and get valuable insights into the quality of leads long before they subscribe to paid.
- Start off with basic tools like Google Analytics, Tag Manager, Mixpannel, and your CRM. Once you scale, go more in-depth and consider plugging in your data in a Data Analytics tool like Looker or Tableau.
Scaling a B2B SaaS business can be an extremely tricky thing to do. It can be a highly competitive environment and success will largely depend on the quality of the software you are trying to sell and the product/market fit.
Growth Marketing tactics can be extremely successful but should always be used to give a boost to a great product. If your product doesn’t have a clear value proposition or competitive advantage most Growth strategies are just going to lead to wasted time & money in the long run.
If you need help figuring out how to scale your SaaS business, have a look at the services we offer to help you multiply your ARR and achieve your growth goals.