When you first start your SaaS business, time and resources are both limited. A marketing plan is required to develop an effective new business strategy and avoid wasting time or money. While there’s no one-size-fits-all template for a marketing plan because each SaaS is unique, we’ve laid out a framework to get you started in the right direction.
What are the components of a Marketing Plan?
- Executive Summary
- Environmental Analysis
- Target Market Analysis
- Advertising Strategy
- Execution Plan
You might be thinking, what’s the point of this? Surely you already know what your company does along with its vision and mission. But it doesn’t hurt to put it in writing to ensure everyone involved in the marketing strategy is aligned. Also if there’s ever a shift in how you define your product, vision, or mission, you have your executive summary right there to make sure your marketing plan still aligns with the goals of the company.
About the Product
Describe your product, who uses it, how long it’s been on the market, is it considered a cheap/expensive option compared to your competitors? This brief overview of your product will be an effective way to convey your offerings, especially if you plan on working with a SaaS marketing agency that may not already be familiar with your industry.
Vision and Mission
Does your SaaS have big plans? Want to expand into new markets? If you haven’t already, it’s a good idea to determine the vision and mission statements of your SaaS. Your vision statement should focus on the future while the mission statement is about what you’re doing today to achieve your goals.
While the goal for every SaaS marketing plan is usually to get more customers, it’s a good idea to define specific quantitative goals with timelines to help determine sprint workflows and make tracking ROI easier. Some examples of quantitative goals are:
- Generate 50 sales qualified leads over the next quarter
- Increase organic traffic to website by 25% over the next six months
- Convert 100 new users from marketing campaigns by end-of-year
Key performance indicators, or KPIs, are your go-to metrics for determining how well a campaign is performing. The metrics you choose as your KPIs depend on the goal of your campaign.
- If your goal is to increase brand awareness, your KPIs might include the amount of website visits or new social media followers from a campaign
- If your goal is to generate leads, then obviously the total leads generated would be your top KPI. You might also want to include conversion rate and cost per conversion so you can measure how efficient your campaign is running.
Lead Generation and Qualification
For most SaaS companies, the ultimate goal of any campaign is to generate more business. But in order to track how a lead generated by a campaign turns into a new customer, it’s important to define the different lifecycle stages or types of leads.
- If you collect business cards at a tradeshow, those people may be considered leads but may not be in the decision stage. These are typically labeled as marketing qualified leads or cold prospects.
- If a user requests a demo, then you can assume they are very interested in your product and may be in the decision stage of the buyer’s journey. These are sales qualified leads or hot prospects.
What do you do with these leads once they’ve been qualified? Cold prospects, or MQLs, will be added to a marketing nurture list to receive promotional emails from your SaaS. Hot prospects, or SQLs, will be given to your sales team to contact the lead and convert the sale.
It’s all well and good to generate a ton of leads from your marketing campaign, but we all know that leads don’t pay the bills. So how can you quantify your ROI? One way is to assign a value to leads based on your close rate and customer lifetime value.
Your close rate is the percent of leads that turn into customers. For example, if your last marketing campaign brought in 250 leads and 75 of them turned into customers, your close rate would be 30%.
Now calculate your customer lifetime value using one of these methods to determine how much gaining a new customer is worth to your business. Using the same example above, if your customer lifetime value is $15k and your close rate is 30%, then you can assign a value of $4500 per lead.
Here’s where we get into the nitty-gritty of your industry. What’s your competition like? Are there any economic, legal, or political forces at play that might affect how your target market consumes your product? Here are a few different ways to determine how your environment can impact your success.
A SWOT analysis is a great way to assess your position in the market and highlight any significant factors that could potentially play a role in the overall success of your SaaS. A SWOT analysis consists of 4 parts:
- Strengths (internal)
- Weaknesses (internal)
- Opportunities (external)
- Threats (external)
Strengths and weaknesses are internal factors that affect the ability of your business to grow and succeed. Opportunities and threats are external forces that you have no control over. Here are some examples of each:
- Versatile software that can appeal to multiple industry verticals
- Easy to use platform that customers love
- Significant market coverage
- Your product is on the more expensive side compared to your competition
- Your software is lacking certain features that customers want
- Limited resources
- Emergence of new markets
- Fast growing customer base
- Potential partnerships and integrations
- Competitor putting out new version of their software
- New legal standards that complicate workflow
- App store regulations that make it difficult to get listed
Your unique selling proposition, or USP, is an important aspect of your marketing plan. Why? Because it’s what sets you apart from your competition. Your USP is what your customers love about YOUR software.
While it helps to have a USP to boast like a feature that competitors are lacking, it can also be something that may not be able to be measured – for example, “user-friendly”, “time saving”, or “intuitive UX” are all valid USPs.
Some example USPs:
- “Built for developers” GitHub
- “Empowering the world to design” Canva
- “Connect with your fans faster” ConvertKit
Take a look at your competition’s websites. Can you identify their USPs?
Speaking of competition, who are your competitors? How many are there? You may have already conducted a competitive analysis but if you haven’t, don’t skip this part. You’ll want to identify your direct and indirect competitors and take note of their online presence. Are they running ads on channels that you’re thinking about running a campaign? How do their websites rank for keywords you might be targeting? These exercises will give you a better idea of who your close competitors are so you can keep an eye on what they’re doing.
Product-market fit is the degree to which a product satisfies a demand in the market and is one of the key indicators that investors use to judge whether or not your SaaS is scalable. Here are some questions to ask yourself to determine whether or not you have achieved product-market fit:
- Does your target market genuinely need your product?
- Is the demand for your product fully articulated?
- Are there gaps that can be filled in your competitors’ products?
Target Market Analysis
Defining your target market is one of the most important parts of your marketing plan.
- Who are your current customers?
- Are you targeting a niche market or a broad audience?
- Are you targeting horizontals or verticals?
Your ideal customer profile, or ICP, is a description of the type of company that is a good fit for your SaaS. Determining your ICP is especially helpful if you decide to use an account-based marketing, or ABM, strategy to focus on marketing your SaaS to these targeted companies.
Buyer personas are sometimes confused with ICPs because they both refer to your target market. The difference is that while an ICP refers to the type of company you’re marketing to, a buyer persona refers to the actual people of those organizations. Determining your buyer persona involves defining their seniority level or job title, what type of company they work at (your ICP), how long they’ve been there, what their challenges and goals are, etc. Your SaaS may have a few buyer personas but they are typically the decision makers of a company.
Once you’ve narrowed down your target market, how do you plan to reach them? Paid search, social media advertising, email marketing, and SEO are just a few of the common advertising channels. Each channel has different costs and timeframes associated with them, along with various pros and cons of using each one.
Determining the budget for your SaaS advertising strategy involves forecasting the costs associated with the channel or channels you’ve decided to use to reach your target audience and the goals you plan to achieve. For example, if your goal is to get 50 leads from a Google Ads campaign and your forecast shows a $500 average CPL, or cost per lead, then your overall campaign budget should be around $25k.
The content of your ads should be determined based on your earlier competitive analysis, goals for the campaign, and how you’ve defined your target audience. What are your competitors offering in their ads? Is your goal to generate MQLs or SQLs? What are your buyers’ pain points? Your ad content should include some kind of offer that your target audience will want in exchange for providing their contact information. For example, this could be a demo, a free trial, access to a case study, or a helpful template that provides value to their business.
How long you plan to run your campaign can depend on a number of factors such as volume of traffic, budget limitations, audience size, and relevance of messaging if your campaign is focused on an event like a tradeshow or conference. You should give your campaign enough time to be fully optimized and reach your target audience, but don’t let it run on for so long that your content becomes stale.
Tracking is a crucial aspect of any marketing campaign and should never be skipped. Without tracking, you won’t have the analytics to tell you whether or not the campaign performed as expected. Depending on the channel you’re advertising on, there are several ways to set up tracking. For example, if you’re running ads on Facebook you’ll want to make sure that you’ve installed the Facebook tracking pixel on your website.
Even though you’ve spent a lot of time getting your messaging and target audience just right, you can’t just launch a campaign and walk away from it. Ongoing optimization is necessary to any marketing campaign because once it has been running, there is new data to analyze that can help improve your campaign performance. For example, you’re running a LinkedIn campaign targeting senior level employees and you notice in your demographics report that some of the job titles are irrelevant to your SaaS, you’ll want to exclude those so you don’t waste your marketing budget showing your ad to the wrong audience.
If your goal is to generate leads, then having a solid lead nurture strategy is critical in turning those MQLs into SQLs. Following up with your leads helps to develop a relationship and reinforce your brand with prospects. Effective lead nurturing starts with engaging your leads and demonstrating value with the content you share with them. Marketing automation tools like HubSpot are extremely helpful for lead nurturing efforts.
Now that you have an idea of all the moving parts involved in a SaaS marketing plan, it’s time to build your own! Download our free SaaS marketing plan sample that you can use as a template to reach your goals in your next marketing campaign.