The pluses that make “software as a service” a great value for your customers are also the challenges that make its marketplace unique: Barriers to entry and startup costs are low, but it’s also quick and easy for your customers to cancel their service and switch to one of your competitors. To stay on top of this cycle, you need to achieve excellence in both customer retention and lead generation. And with inbound marketing, you can support both of these goals. Here’s how:
Specific Niche, Specific Content
The SaaS field is vast. Your product is not designed to serve every single potential SaaS customer there is. Once that thought sinks in, the obvious follow-up is to get to know the customers that your service does serve as thoroughly as possible. It will likely take the combined efforts of your sales, marketing and customer service teams, but as you develop a detailed profile, or persona, of each of your customer verticals, you’ll have a good list of their needs and the ongoing problems they expect your software to help them solve – their pain points for which they’re seeking solutions. Then the challenge is simply to educate them on how your specific product is the strongest to handle their specific pains.
However, the key to both customer retention and lead generation is not a simple sales pitch; your customers have heard all that before. To develop a loyal and involved following, instead of just telling them that your product is best, you have to educate them on how and why your product is best, including testimonials from customers just like them. And you have to publish these stories on a regular, ongoing basis.
The formats through which you provide this practical, immediately applicable information to solve their problems includes email marketing, blog posts, webinars, tradeshow materials, etc. Help your readers get interactive through quizzes, animated infographics and GIFs. When you do this well, you don’t just attract more visitors, you generate a captive audience that is genuinely interested in visiting often to understand how their headaches can be cured. Strategically repurposing useful content into different channels and formats attracts new prospects and helps groom them to become life-long customers.
Shorten the Funnel
Depending on your price points, your sales funnel for SaaS could be remarkably short — with the conversion cycle taking as little a few days – so it needs to have a broad opening that quickly narrows. Help convert more casual readers into serious prospects by focusing on the best practices of your customer journey and developing an in-depth knowledge base of Q&A, “how-to” pieces, case studies, videos, ebooks and white papers that live on your website. Address any reservations your prospects may have on performance or usability, and don’t be afraid to include plenty of decision-supporting statistics at this level as well as product reviews and testimonials. It’s been estimated that this step alone can increase SaaS sales by 18 percent.
Increase the number of touches with your audience by engaging them through ads for similar content till there is authority for your brand established in their minds. Finally, the key to showing your prospects exactly how your product will help them do their jobs better is for them to sample it. All your content should eventually lead to signing up for a trial, a demo, or whatever your SaaS model dictates. Determine which version of the typical SaaS offer will not just get your prospects’ attention, but give them a level of confidence to reach into their wallet and pay for your product over the long haul.
The Old School 80/20 Rule
When you think about it, today’s larger emphasis on customer retention has simply rolled back around to what SaaS companies have known all along: You’ve got to retain your current customers to be fiscally successful. That brings up the related old-school sales truism that companies can expect 80 percent of their sales to come from 20 percent of their customers. This, in turn, begs some questions:
- What are you doing to achieve high retention rates? (You are tracking important retention metrics like customer churn and customer lifetime value, correct?)
- Do you know who your top 20 percent are, and what are you doing for them?
Your most basic goal should be a consistently high level of service for your existing customers: offer them exclusive deals, engage with them on social media and via emails, and supply them with content focused tightly on their needs. Keep them informed of updates to make sure they’re getting optimum use out of your software. Maintain an extremely close alignment between your sales, marketing, R&D and customer service teams so that customers’ interactions are consistent and that any concerns they float are addressed in future updates. Happy customers are more likely to enter that 20 percent of your brand advocates, helping to further market your business and referring new prospects.
Your success with SaaS inbound marketing will depend on your ability to repeatedly try, learn and optimize. Use plenty of relevant metrics to measure engagement and conversion from your content. Apply the similar engagement metrics for your customer retention efforts as you would for your prospect or lead acquisition efforts. Finally, re-purpose content across channels, formats, ads, and email campaigns.