Archive for the ‘Closing Sales’ Category

How to Prevent Free Trial Abuse

Monday, March 6th, 2017

FEATURED_How-to-Prevent-Free-Trial-Abuse

If you’re like most SaaS products, you offer a free trial to new users. Research from Chart Mogul found that 97% of SaaS companies offer free trials, but only 39% offer a forever free tier. This shows that most companies use free trials to usher users into paid accounts.

There will always be people who never intend to buy your product and just want to get something for free. You’ll never be able to completely stop free trial abusers, but those people were never going to be customers anyway. It’s just something we have to deal with.

Nevertheless, it’s important to deter free trial abusers as best you can.

Free download: How Long Should You Make Your Free Trial?

What makes a SaaS product easy to abuse?

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Some SaaS products are easier to abuse than others. You’ll attract more abusers if your tool meets any of these criteria.

  • The product is a low-touch tool (meaning anyone can sign up to your service without speaking to one of your representatives).
  • The product is consumer-facing (meaning you sell to people, not businesses).
  • Setting up an account is lightning fast.
  • Setting up an account does not require clicking a confirmation link in the user’s email account or in a mobile phone text message.
  • The product does not require any advanced or time-consuming integrations with other products; no special code needs to be created or an API accessed.
  • The product doesn’t require significant customizations or data imports.
  • The product can be used effectively immediately after sign up.

If your product meets any of those criteria, try changing something so it becomes less appealing to habitual abusers.

Understanding abuse

Your first step is to look at abuse critically, not personally. If people are abusing your free trial, it doesn’t mean they want to cause you harm. It usually means you don’t understand what they find valuable. What you see as abuse points are actually the customer’s value points.

Customer success expert Lincoln Murphy says it nicely: “So these ‘abuse points’ are where value is realized by the customer, at least from a functional standpoint; in this case, the functional standpoint is that they completed the ‘job to be done’ with the product.”

For instance, let’s say you charge $99/month for your product. You notice that the same users keep signing up with dummy email addresses and using your 30 day free trial. There is a chance that these users aren’t unwilling to pay you anything, but that usually isn’t the case. What these users are telling you is that they don’t believe your product is worth $99/month.

In this example, you can fix the problem by adjusting your pricing model, changing your free trial period, or improving your product so it provides better value. You should also find ways to demonstrate the product’s value so users understand the potential. You may even want to speak with one of the abusers to see what it is about the product that has caused their behavior.

Require a credit card

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Many SaaS products allow users to create an account and use the tool with just an email address. After the free trial period, the account locks and requests that the user input a credit card to pay and continue using the product. At this point, some people will use a new email address to setup a new account with your SaaS and continue working for another free month (or however long your trial is).

You can work around this a bit by requiring a credit card when the user originally signed up. Notify the user that you won’t charge the card until the end of the free trial period, but that you need one immediately.

Another method is to lock certain features behind a credit card requirement. For example, an online store platform might allow users to experiment with features and set up their store for free, but launching the store (making it public) requires payment.

People who intend to buy the product (if they like it) should have no problem with this. If they decide the product isn’t for them, they’ll just go through your cancellation process. But users who never intend to buy the product at all will be deterred.

Will this requirement turn off some legitimate users? Yes, it may deter some people who honestly wanted to evaluate your product and ultimately reduce your number of signups, but not as much as you think.

Neil Patel, founder of Quicksprout, ran an experiment where he offered users A) a free trial with a credit card, or B) paid from the start with a money back guarantee. People preferred the free trial, even though it required a credit card at the start.

Requiring a credit card can improve your lead quality because you know your users are willing to pay. You’ll have to decide if a loss of those people is greater than a loss of potential abusers.

Create barriers for new account

Your other option is to create barriers that are difficult for users to overcome twice. Here are some ideas.

1. Require a mobile phone number

Most people only have one mobile phone number. They may live or work with someone who will let them use theirs, but there’s a limit to that. It’s possible to set up Google Voice numbers and forwarding, but that takes a lot of effort. When the user inputs a phone number, require that they return the confirmation code you send by text message.

2. Track user IP addresses

Set up an alert that shows if multiple accounts are created from the same IP address. This isn’t foolproof because some networks will show the same IP address for everyone using it. If you discover multiple accounts with the same address, you should do more investigating to see if they’re using the account in a similar way (same brand name, for instance).

3. Place a cookie on the user’s computer

You can install a cookie on the user’s computer that your application will check for during the account creation process. If your app recognizes the cookie, it should prompt the user to log into their other account. Cookies won’t stop everyone because they can be easily removed, but this tactic will impede users who don’t know how to clear their browser.

Change your app

If you’ve implemented any of those strategies but you still have problems with abusers, you can switch from a paid tier model to a paid usage model.

An example of this model is MailChimp. MailChimp allows anyone to use their service for free until they have 2,000 subscribers. After 2,000, the account begins to charge a fee that rises as the number of subscribers increase.

In this case, the whole point of MailChimp is to communicate with their subscribers. Users naturally want more subscribers. It’s possible to spread a subscriber list across a series of accounts so each account is beneath the free limit, but that would require a tremendous amount of work and organization on the user’s part. It’s easier to pay the fee.

Download this free resource to determine the proper length for your free trial.

If you can find a way to structure your pricing model so users only pay for what they use, you can closely tie the product’s value with honest use.

An Inbound Marketing Funnel Every SaaS Needs

Monday, February 20th, 2017

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The Internet is a big place. Advertising to the right people is difficult and expensive. Instead of reaching out to your potential customers, it’s smarter to let them find you. That’s called inbound marketing.

But there’s more to inbound marketing than blogging. Creating content isn’t enough unless you capture that traffic, qualify it, and turn it into sales for your SaaS.

A marketing funnel is a simple concept. It’s a visual representation of how prospective customers interact with your business and eventually become actual customers.

Think of a funnel’s shape. It’s wider at the top than it is at the bottom. Lots of people will be exposed to your marketing materials (the top of the funnel), but only a few will become customers (the narrow bottom of the funnel).

“You aren’t limited to using your funnel strictly for signing up and/or purchasing,” says Kissmetrics. “You can put funnels all over your website to see how visitors move through a specific website flow.”

In a perfect world, everyone who becomes exposed to your marketing materials would become a customer. But that just isn’t the case. Some people aren’t right for your product or service. Some people never planned to buy anyway. A marketing funnel will help you capture more people and identify who is most likely to buy your product.

A basic inbound marketing funnel has three stages: awareness, consideration, and decision.

marketing-funnel

Use this list of ways to qualify your leads and identify which customers are ready for your sales team.

Stage 1: Awareness

This is the beginning of your funnel, when prospective buyers become aware of their own problem and learning how it can be solved. At this point, the prospect isn’t ready to buy, so he isn’t willing to read sales copy or promotional materials. He wants solutions to his problems. If you try to sell to the prospective customer at this point, you’ll only turn him off.

The key is to capture your prospect by offering content that offers solutions. You can do this in a lot of ways, including blog posts, eBooks, email courses, reports, whitepapers, interviews, videos, podcasts, or anything else you think he’ll like.

When you’re creating content, make sure you do it with a clear understanding of your customer. Serve content in the format they prefer so they’ll be more likely to give it their attention. Figure out their problems and then create solutions that address them.

Stage 2: Consideration

At this stage in the funnel, the prospect is well aware of his problem and the need for a solution, but he doesn’t know which solution is right. He’s still exploring.

At this point, you need to make yourself a powerful resource in the prospect’s life so he automatically looks to you for answers. You can do this by getting him to sign up to your email list. Your website content should be optimized to capture as many sign-ups as possible.

There are lots of ways to collect leads. You can add sign-up boxes to your sidebars, the bottom of blog posts, toaster “popup” widgets, and whole-site overlays. Generally speaking, however, you will capture the most sign-ups by giving something in return.

Create a piece of specialty content that can only be delivered once the prospect surrenders his email address. This is called a lead magnet. (OptinMonster has some great examples.) Most people give away reports, eBooks, email courses, etc. Again, figure out what your audience wants the most and serve that.

Once a prospect signs up for your email list, they are considered a lead. Continue to deliver problem-solving content to your email list. This is called lead nurturing. Over time, you’ll establish yourself as an authority on your topic. The prospect will consider you someone who has added value to his life.

Stage 3: Decision

Eventually, the prospect will be ready to make a purchase. They’ll understand their problem and the type of solution they need. At this point, your job is to convince the prospect that your solution is the one they need to buy.

But how do you tell when a prospect is ready to make a decision? You need to qualify your leads with the right types of content and a deft use of your email marketing software.

Your email tool should offer a way to tag or segment your subscribers. The goal is to serve content that a buyer would be most interested in to identify him from the pool of subscribers.

Here’s an example:

Each week, you send a link to a new blog post to your whole list of subscribers (this is the lead nurturing). But you also send a link to an article you’ve written that compares your product to your main competitors. A prospect who is in the decision stage would be interested in reading that type of content.

In this example, you would set your email marketing tool to tag anyone who clicks on the competitor comparison as a “hot lead.” Once you’ve given them time (about a day) to read the content, you or your salesperson would reach out to the subscriber personally to start your sales process.

Other than competitor comparisons, here are types of content that can be used to identify subscribers who are in the decision-making stage.

  • Product/solution comparisons
  • Personal consultations
  • Product demonstrations
  • Webinars
  • Product trials
  • Customer case studies
  • Product/specification literature

If you’ve created quality content and qualified your leads well, your sales job should be pretty much over. Your inbound funnel would have provided all of the education. Your task is to explain to the customer that you’re available to solve their problem right now and how to get started.

The best parts of an inbound marketing funnel

The greatest advantage to an inbound funnel that relies on content to move prospects toward the sale is that the ROI is fantastic. Once you’ve built the funnel, it will require the occasional tweak and improvement, but it can last forever. Day after day, more people will find your content, become a subscriber, get nurtured by your content, and eventually respond to your sales messages.

The more quality content you create, the more avenues your prospects will have to find your business (this is called “widening the funnel”). If you commit to a consistent schedule of creating one piece of content each week, you’ll quickly create lots of ways for prospects to become aware of your business.

Improving the effectiveness of a marketing funnel is done in two ways:

  1. Capturing more people into the funnel. This is done by creating more publically available content and optimizing your website to capture leads.
  2. Optimizing how many people make it to the bottom. This is done by serving your email list well and smartly identifying who is most likely to buy.

Secondly, an inbound funnel (unlike a traditional sales funnel) can be automated to a great extent. Yes, you’ll have to create the content yourself (unless you outsource it), but the other components can be automated so you can make more content.

For instance, your website will automatically capture leads through your sign-up forms and lead magnets. Once subscribers join your list, you can set your email marketing tool to begin dripping a series of emails that nurture the prospect, culminating with content for prospects in the decision-making stage. Once you qualify your leads with specialty content, your email tool automatically begins a sales sequence that encourages the prospect to message or call you.

Download this list of ways to target which of your subscribers are ready for your salespeople.

Expanding your funnel

digital-marketing

You can use other marketing tactics to bring traffic into your funnel. Don’t be afraid to experiment with other tools. For instance, you might post on social media or buy Facebook or Google ads that point to specialty pieces of content, not product pages. You could guest blog on authority websites, have influencers plug your content, or use retargeting ads to bring old traffic back for another look.
I’ll leave you with this last piece of advice when it comes to building an inbound marketing funnel: Create the best content you possibly can and you’ll attract the most people.

Why Should a Customer Upgrade from Your Free Trial?

Monday, December 12th, 2016

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Think your free trial will do the job of selling your SaaS product itself?

Unfortunately, no matter how ground-breaking you believe your product to be, we have a problem in SaaS with convincing customers to make the upgrade to a paid product. People are often languishing on free options (if available) or simply letting their trial expire without going on to the upgrade.

Of course, not every customer that signs up for a free trial will be a good fit. Sometimes they’re simply checking out your product because it’s free and have no real intention of becoming a regular user. Sometimes they want your SaaS to work for them, but the reality is it’s simply not the right fit for their needs. That aside, SaaS are losing too many customers who would be the right fit, if only they could ensure users get beyond the free trial.

Want a possible roadmap for email engagement? Grab ours here:

Why should a customer upgrade from your free trial?

Why do customers say “no?”

First of all, it helps to have an understanding of the common reasons why customers say “no” to upgrading from your free trial. Some of these reasons you’ll almost never be able to counter, but for others, you can make a plan to overcome those objections.

They just don’t see the value in payingjustice-scales-balance-lawyer-lowers-fee-money

There may be a number of reasons for this perhaps your product really doesn’t meet a need they have and they’re unlikely so see any value from it anyway. More often though, it’s because SaaS have failed to properly help the client through the trial period so that they’re able to realize that value.

Your free trial can’t exist in isolation you need material such as content to back it up. As Hubspot says: “Content – in the form of blogs, videos and downloadable guides – helps you to stand out from your competitors (which could be many – remember, you’re not that innovative). It’s also the best way to attract potential customers still in the ‘awareness’ stage of the buying cycle: people who have identified the need to solve a problem, but are yet to evaluate potential solutions.”

Of course, what you need will depend on the complexity of your product, so make sure you give some thought to developing a high-quality demo which highlights the key features and benefits well. As Hubspot point out: “it could also be that some subtle complexity – or that one feature that really, really hooks new users in when they find it – just doesn’t come across in the context of the free trial. Some people may have questions about your product they can’t answer when left to their own devices.”

Key Lesson: Make sure you’ve got as much backup information in place as you need to sit alongside your free trial and ensure that the customer is aware of what’s available. Actually demonstrating value is the key here.

Too much “friction”

How much information are you requesting on signup? Are you also requiring credit card details? While many SaaS prefer to collect payment details early in order to set apart the tire kickers from the true prospects, analysis has shown that there are often better conversion rates if you don’t require payment details first up.

Totango analysed 550 SaaS and found that those who required credit cards to sign up for free trials had lower signup conversion rates. If you’d still prefer to collect credit card information, understand that one of the reasons customers are reluctant to hand those details over is because they’re worried they’ll be billed automatically (we’ve all been there!). Try reassuring them by not automatically billing and letting them know they will need to “opt in” for an upgrade and to be billed rather than having to opt out.

Another common friction point is wanting virtually all information, save what the customer had for breakfast on Wednesday last week as part of the signup process. We tend to be impatient creatures who prefer “quick and easy” when it comes to signing up for anything. Besides that, you may also find that people are leery of giving out too much information. Give them a reason to trust you first and let them get through the free trial and upgrade on minimum information. You can always request more on a voluntary basis later, to “help us serve you better.”

Signing up for your free trial, followed by upgrading to paid membership should be a simple process which any customer can follow intuitively. As Kissmetrics states: “By the way, if the customer has to ask how to buy the product or activate a new account, you’re doing it wrong. The process should be childishly simple.”

Key Lesson: Don’t tie customers up with all sorts of “requirements” to sign up. They’ll see it as annoying, prying or difficult and you’ll lose people.

xero-signup

Getting support is (perceived to be) difficult

What have you got in place to nurture customers who are on your free trial? Believe it or not, there are still plenty of SaaS out there for whom the answer is “next to nothing.” People get dropped into the free trial, maybe have a few pieces of content thrown at them or the odd email, but don’t have much more in the way of support.

Again, your requirements may depend on the complexity of your product, but at the very least, you should be nurturing trial users with engaging, timely emails. Unbounce wrote a piece on nurturing through email where they featured research showing that only 26% of SaaS companies are using emails to nurture trial users and turn them into paying customers. 26% that suggests a large number of SaaS are missing out on a nurturing technique which is not difficult to implement.

The thing with regular email contact is that it helps to let the customer know you are there to help them through the trial and can provide them with content that is relevant and of interest. For example, you can effectively use list segmentation to trigger emails based on behaviors, with better results as they are more relevant to the customer.

Unbounce provided a few tips in their article for better email nurturing, such as:

  • Send the first email immediately on sign up for the free trial.
  • Personalize emails by addressing the customer by name and providing clear name and contact details for yourself.
  • Provide clear instructions for getting started.
  • Keep in regular contact throughout the trial.

We’d add here that you should also be very clear about where the customer can go if they need help. No one likes to have to click around looking for support when they need it and this helps to create the perception that you make getting support difficult. Give them options where you can, such as a searchable knowledge base, easy ways to contact customer support or even simply a contact form. Of course if you do this, the key will be to respond promptly to any requests.

Key Lesson: Be available and communicate regularly! Make it clear to customers how they can get help if needed.

Need an email roadmap to encourage upgrades? Get ours here:

Final Thoughts

Why should a customer upgrade from your free trial? Because your SaaS will be the absolute best at solving a genuine need they have, of course. However, the key is that you need to communicate this during the free trial.

Ensure that your trial customers have every opportunity to see the value that your SaaS can provide them with, including via content and product demos. Don’t assume everyone can work things out themselves many won’t have the patience.

Make your signup process as frictionless as possible so that your customers are comfortable handing over their details. It should be obvious to the customer what their next step is and how to take it.

Keep nurturing the customer via email throughout the process and make it clear to them how to get help if needed. No one wants to struggle and feel that help is elusive. Don’t leave things to chance, be there for your trial customers at all stages and help them feel confident to take the next step.

SaaS Insights: Honing the Close

Monday, September 19th, 2016

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It seems everywhere you look now there is a tale of a SaaS startup absolutely crushing it with remarkable growth and impressive numbers all over the board. Sometimes it seems that they’ve made these achievements with ease, but usually, there is far more to the story.

Anyone who has been in the SaaS business for a while will tell you that it’s simply not easy achieving the growth required to render your SaaS viable — even if you really do have the best product invented since sliced bread.

Zig Ziglar got it right years prior to the SaaS phenomena when he said: “Every sale has 5 basic obstacles: no need, no money, no hurry, no desire, or no trust.”

Depending on your pricing, you might not be able to do much about the money objection, but those other four are well within your control. Let’s look at a few insights for honing the close in your SaaS:

Building Trust

Building trust is really something which begins long before you’re asking for the close. It’s not like potential customers are likely to say “sign me up” as soon as they find you — there’s a period of investigation first where they are deciding whether a) you can meet a need they have and b) whether you are trustworthy.

A mistake that many SaaS make at this point is to put too much focus on features and perhaps talking up how great their company is. These do not build trust with the customer — oftentimes, a focus on features is confusing or not understood by the customer, leading to any talk of how great you are being completely negated.

On the other hand, if you want to start building trust well, here are a few things you should be doing from the beginning:

  • Focus on value to the customer. They may not understand all of your features, but that crucial “what’s in it for me” piece, when stated in their own language, can be a powerful trust builder.
  • No obligation free trials. Very few customers want to commit to purchasing a software untested. To further up the trust factor, consider whether allowing the trial without collecting credit card information will work for you.
  • Give them something of value. Besides your free trial, where else can you offer value? This may even be through the content you create to support your SaaS and provide ideas for common problems your customers have.
  • Make packaging and pricing transparent and easy for customers to understand.
  • Know and address the common reasons for mistrust. According to Visual.ly security of information and ongoing access to the product remain big concerns.

visual-ly

Why Your SaaS?

The SaaS market is very competitive; in most verticals, customers have options and they’re probably not overly precious about who they decide to go with as long as they appear to be getting the best value. Whether you’re a small startup or a large enterprise, the prospect will still need a compelling reason to choose you over others.

When you think about a company which has “raving” fans (Apple comes to mind!), one of the big draws tends to be an emotional resonance with the company. You may not have thought of it in these terms when it comes to growing a SaaS, but Fast Company refers to it as “building a movement.” This goes a long way toward creating that trust you need, too.

Whatever you do, whether it is telling your story, marketing, a sales conversation or the branding elements of your SaaS, you need to be reflecting that emotional dynamic you want to create for customers.

When should SaaS offer discounts? Grab our guide here:

The Case for Change

This is really addressing those “need” and “desire” problems. Sometimes SaaS are so new that the concept of what they’re offering hasn’t even been recognized as a problem yet by the prospect.

Sometimes it’s just that humans have a natural inertia and resistance to change.

The logical first step is to really get an understanding of the needs of the customer. If you work off the lower priced/ higher number of subscribers SaaS model, you’re probably not going for one-on-one sales with each customer, but some variance from the self-service model can actually help you out.

Spend some time talking to those whom you have identified as “ideal” customers for your SaaS. Pick up the phone and call them. If you want to better hone your close, then you need to have an intimate understanding of what makes them tick and what needs will really drive them to change. This can then be reflected in your copy and provide answers to questions such as “why do I need this?”

Enterprise sales work on this kind of basis constantly, needing to learn the specific needs of the company to which they are trying to sell, though of course, this is not always done very well. You can’t very well tell them what you think they need when you haven’t spent the time learning and understanding what they think they need.

The saying “always be closing” is appropriate here too. If you regularly measure data and seek feedback from current users, you get the opportunity to address their needs and encourage them to stay with you, while improving your value proposition to new clients. Kissmetrics points out that building in feedback loops provides you with more ways to demonstrate value and to continue with that building of trust.

Why Right Now?

The laid-back, “we’re in no hurry” approach doesn’t help your SaaS to reach those vital growth milestones you’re probably needing to hit in a relatively short period of time. This is a crucial objection to overcome in any kind of sales.

If your answer is something like “because right now we’re offering this huge discount”, you’re probably not on the right track. As Lincoln Murphy points out, the way SaaS pricing discounts are done most of the time will devalue your offering in the eyes of the customer. He further comments that “pricing objections are usually value objections.” If the customer is saying not right now because of the price, either they genuinely can’t afford the expense or they just can’t see the value in it.

If you’re using discounts at all, make them scarce so that they actually help create a sense of urgency. This could take the form of a limited period of time over which you’re offering a discounted rate for annual subscriptions, for example.

Besides that, “why right now?” involves being able to present a relevant business case to your prospects. With the incredible value you can bring them and the way you can help them save time/ streamline processes/ save money/ take a vacation, how does it not make sense to take advantage of these benefits as soon as possible?

Is it ok for SaaS to offer discounts? Check out our guide:

Final Thoughts

Any SaaS wanting to close more sales immediately has objections and obstacles before them to overcome with their prospects.

Zig Ziglar summed these up quite neatly with “no need, no money, no hurry, no desire, or no trust.”

Logically, trust is the first objection SaaS need to overcome, starting long before attempting to close the sale. Be seen delivering value, providing transparency and addressing common trust issues such as security and accessibility.

From there, your close will be many times improved if you have a good understanding of the customer, what they think they need and any needs they may not have identified themselves yet. What will your answers be to “why you, why do I need this and why right now?”

Why Integrated Marketing Is Important for SaaS

Monday, August 22nd, 2016

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Multi-channel marketing methods are really becoming the norm for any company wanting to promote themselves today.

For SaaS, it’s about encouraging people through the lifecycle; from trial to paid to a paid upgrade. If you’re not making use of multiple channels to reach your customers, there’s a high chance you are missing out somewhere.

This is where an integrated marketing approach with a modern perspective is important. What does that look like for SaaS? Let’s check it out:

Where can SaaS be marketing? Grab our checklist here!

What Is “Integrated Marketing?”

The term integrated marketing has been around at least since the 1980s. It originally referred to achieving marketing objectives by coordinating use of different promotional methods, with the idea being that they reinforce each other.

This is still true, but as Don Peppers proposes, this definition really needs expanding to better account for the twenty-first century environment. Technology is melding functions like customer service, marketing and sales together like never before, so Peppers argues the true unifying view is that of the customer.

Here is his updated definition of integrated marketing:

“Integrated marketing incorporates an individual customer’s own perspective into all customer-facing functions at a company, including marketing, sales, and service.”

What might integrated marketing look like?

A SaaS-related example might be a lead who responds to a specific campaign you are running, where you are aiming to generate more sign-ups. Rather than that lead being sent to a one-size-fits-all sales approach, they are presented with a specific selling strategy which has been tailored to preferences they have expressed or actions they have taken which have helped you to segment them and create a profile.

So, Just Do More Stuff?

Well no, not really. You’ve got to have decent strategy behind using the channels you do. John Jantsch wrote a piece for Duct Tape Marketing where he discusses the general lack of understanding around integrated marketing. It’s one of those terms that is elevated to “buzzword” status, which as a result, means there are some common misconceptions.

For example, the basic interpretation which many consider is “we need to do more kinds of stuff.” As Jantsch points out: “The problem with more stuff is that stuff without a central strategy can actually cause one stuff to combat and conflict with some other stuff.”

As one commentator on Jantsch’s article points out, while customers might get slightly different messages from different channels back in the day, social media is now here shining a light on any disparities in strategy. Consistency across tactics is the key to ensure your messaging is not confusing to customers.

Get Selective

So as a SaaS, there are some common issues which you may be able to relate to:

  • You want to keep acquisition costs down.
  • You want to attract more of the “right customer”, the one who your product is really suited to and who is likely to hang around.
  • You want to reduce churn.

First of all, many newer SaaS look at the array of possible marketing channels available with a sense of bewilderment. Is that print ad worth it? Should we be on X, Y and Z social media channels?

A truly effective integrated marketing approach begins with a strong central strategy, just as John Jantsch stated. Where does that central strategy start? Always, it should begin and end with your target customer.

To pull this off, you need to be very clear on who that target customer is and where to find them. How will you speak to them directly and make them feel that your product is definitely for them?

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Source: HubSpot

It seems like such an elementary concept, yet one reason many businesses (including SaaS) are no longer around is because they were afraid to narrow down their audience. They think they may be “missing opportunities” if they don’t cast a wide net.

The thing is, if you try to be all things to everyone you risk confusing people and limiting the number you actually bring onboard.

Targeting the channels where your ideal customer is likely to be found helps you to reduce acquisition costs by focusing your spend. You can stay on-message and clearly communicate with those who need your product the most. (Hey, you’re a cloud-based solution, we suggest those appropriate channels are found online too. Here’s an article we wrote on channels SaaS are using to get found).

We’ll show you which marketing channels to use for your SaaS in this free resource.

Your Messaging

A key part of integrated marketing is consistency. The mode of delivery may look different, but the key overall message has been consciously decided and deliberately applied across channels.

One strategy which can help you to deliver consistent messaging is to develop a unique brand story which is central to your communications. Your story helps you cement a unique position and build a real connection with customers.

If you look at a SaaS such as HubSpot as an example, you can find them across multiple channels, and promoting more than one product. However, their messaging remains consistent no matter where you see them. It’s clear who they are there for, what their values are and what they deliver for customers. Their vision of an “inbound world” is the consistent story wherever you find them online.

hubspot-story

Setting Expectations

Another reason integrated marketing strategy is important for SaaS is because you need to clearly set expectations with your customers. Lincoln Murphy points out that many SaaS fail miserably at managing customer expectations, yet this seems to be such a simple idea.

Whether those expectations involve limits to free trials or even simply explaining that they will be offered an upgrade for which they’ll need to pay if they’d like to take it, make sure those expectations are managed and that there is a consistent approach across all marketing channels.

Look at things from the point of view of that customer you want to sign up with you. As Lincoln Murphy says, if everything appears to be self-service to sign up but they then receive a sales call from your team out of the blue, they may not be too happy about that. If you’re going to do or require anything else, be upfront about that from the beginning.

Get Contextual

While your marketing messages should be consistent and align with your overall goals, that doesn’t mean all your messaging should be exactly the same.

Contextual marketing means delivering the right message to the right person in the right moment. You can use marketing software (such as Hubspot) which helps you to do that quite effectively, or you can go relatively low-tech by triggering emails based on certain activities.

Most SaaS will have more than one segment and often each segment has slightly different priorities and reasons why they need the software. The beauty of a multi-channel environment is that you can use those to provide the best messaging, timed to be relevant to the customer and on a channel of their preference. Driving engagement in this way is an important strategy for reducing churn.

Need an example? Google Adwords is one of the most obvious, delivering up advertisements to people depending on the keywords they have searched. With mobile technology, apps with enabled push notifications which can be activated depending on customer location are another example. Dunkin Donuts has used this to let users know when a nearby fresh donut batch is coming out of the oven.

What could your SaaS do? Messaging based on milestones reached or usage might be a good place to start…

Final Thoughts

Integrated marketing for SaaS is about presenting the customer with consistent messaging across the multiple channels which you may choose to use.

The customer is at the center for every marketing call you make and their perspective should be the lens through which your messaging is viewed.

Start by having a very good description of what your target customers look like and where to find them. Be choosy about the channels you use so that you are more likely to reach the right people and reduce that marketing spend.
Lastly, don’t leave retention to chance once you have onboarded the customer. Use your marketing channels to deliver contextual messages which keep your customers engaged.