Step 1: Getting Started
In order to sell something to someone you must first know why they might want to buy it. I’m sure this seems obvious, but it’s incredible how often it’s overlooked in business. It’s impossible to market to everyone. Only a small fraction of the market will ever want, be able to access, or even need your service.
Even if you’re software would literally help everyone on the planet, you couldn’t help the three billion people who don’t have access to the internet. Deciding who to look for in a potential customer is the essential first step to building a SaaS inbound marketing plan.
Make some customer personas… seriously, do it.
A customer persona is simply a fictional representation of your ideal customer that is based on some type of market research. As the owner or founder of a Saas startup you only need to look as far as the mirror. Chances are high that you developed your software because it solved a problem that you were encountering in your own life. If your service had been available when you were experiencing your problem would you have used it? Hopefully the answer is yes, if it’s no then all you have to do is restructure your entire company until it’s a yes.
Developing customer personas is a very similar process to what I just described, only instead of yourself you would look at a group of your best customers. First discover what they have in common with each other, then trace back the steps taken on their buyer’s journey that led them to sign up for your service. Slap an easily identifiable and humanizing name on the top of the page, and walla! Well… it’s almost that simple.
Step 2: Give a lot and ask for a little
Now that you know who your customers are you should be able to figure out what they need. If you did your job right making your personas one of the things they need is your service, but more often than not they are not ready for a relationship with you company. Sometimes they are already searching for solutions, or they might not realize they have a problem. These are customers at different stages of their buyer’s journey and the process of placing them into groups is called segmentation.
There are tons of factors that you can segment your audience based on. The fact remains that these people need help and you’re going to give it to them for free.
Free? Well in terms of money yes, but there is still an economic exchange going here. These days the exchange of information is treated very similarly to the exchange of currency. As an expert in your field who has created an excellent B2B Saas solution you have extremely valuable information regarding the problems that your target audience is facing. Share this information genuinely and fully with your audience in exchange for their email.
Hold on? You mean to say that you’re going spend hours upon hours:
- Writing blogs
- Making infographics
- Writing ebooks
- Building guides
- Creating instructional youtube videos
- Curating content on social media
- just to name a few...
Then you’re going spend a bunch more time on marketing all that stuff and you’re not going to ask anyone for any money? Just their email? Doesn’t really seem fair right? Wrong. All of that effort is paid in full once someone who needs your service gives you permission to contact them.
By showing your audience that you honestly want to help them and genuinely have their best interests in mind, regardless of if they are paying for your service, you build trust. The relationship with your audience is everything and if done correctly it will increase your leads, sales, and customer retention. The trick is that there is no trick. All you have to do is actually care and help as much as you can while asking for as little as you need in return. You’re building a win-win scenario, if you provide value they will give you their business.
Step 3: Let them try your service for free… and make it awesome
Now that you have them interested you need to let them try your service. If you have been in the saas business for any period of time then providing a free trial of the service should not be a new concept to you.
Always build a trial experience that is for the benefit of the customer using it. You don’t want to push anyone away by making them feel tricked, scammed, or not in control. Keep everything above board and show people that if they buy your product they can expect a transparent relationship with your company. In a B2B Saas free trial you better believe that your customer is also trialing how well your two businesses can work together, prove yourself.
How do you prove that you will be a good match for a B2B client?
This is a great question with a simple answer: Treat them like a paying customer. If your service is valuable and they like working with you they might just sign up. Obviously there are many different strategies for how to structure your trial. Your trial should be constructed to encourage your customers that when they finally hit the buy button they have made a great choice. The most important part of the trial is the opportunity for direct communication with your customers. This conversation is primarily started through email automation.
Basically you use automated email for two main reasons:
- Let your customers know what’s going on.
- Try and spark up a conversation.
The second after a prospect has activated a trial account with you they need to receive an onboarding email that explains how everything works. If you notice that they may be struggling with something, or have stopped using the service during the trial they need to receive an email offering help. You don’t want to get too spammy with these emails, but they are absolutely necessary if you want to convert trial members into paying customers.
There are lots and lots of email automation tools out there like Mailchimp and Hubspot. Honestly it doesn't matter which one you use, what matters is that you are using them correctly as a part of your marketing and sales funnels. It would also be good if your email automation integrated with your Customer Relationship Management software.
If you can show to your prospective customers that they will not only be getting access to a wonderful software, but also be receiving excellent customer service, your relationship will be starting off in the right direction.
Step 4: Make it easy to buy
So far it’s all led up to this. You’ve shepherded a prospect along your marketing and sales funnels and now they are ready to buy. Just have them fill out a 19 page form with every possible type of personal and professional information and then send a cashier's check to your office. These days there is no reason to make things complicated and if there’s any part of your process that should be absolutely flawless it should be your buying process. The actual experience of paying for your product should be excellent and easy for your customers.
While it is true that B2B customers will be more scrutinizing than B2C customers, they are still humans and humans are impulsive. By making your offer attractive and your buying process frictionless you increase your chances of winning impulsive buyers. You need to make sure that when they are ready to buy they can do so without loss of excitement due to a slow or convoluted buying process.
Believe it or not, not everyone who demos your product will buy it. This is normal. If you have a good CRM in place you’ll be able to identify where these prospects dropped out of the funnel and asses the likelihood that you will be able to remarket to them. Remarketing is simply the process of trying to acquire customers from a pool of leads that did not become sales. These are the cheapest types of prospects to market too because you can communicate to them directly via email or indirectly via social media.
Step 5: Make it last
Saas is a unique business model because usually the customer can cancel at any time without penalty. While this can make it tricky to calculate exactly what the lifetime value of your customers will be, it is also very necessary to have a successful relationship with your customers. They need to be driving the car, you need to be operating the gps to help them get to where they want to go.
Customer retention is where most of the focus of your marketing strategy should be going. You need to delight your customers so much that they can’t help but hop on social media and brag about how cool your company was to them. The fastest way to become successful is to help your customers be successful.
Again a good CRM is key to this aspect of the customer relationship. If you see some area where the customer could use some help, be the first to reach out with the solution. Show that you are interested in the customer’s long term goals, not just whether or not they are satisfied with your product.
Following these five steps will get your Saas product to market in an educational and genuine way. While your marketing strategy will need to differ from this framework, I hope it was still helpful in sparking your own marketing creativity.