SaaS by their very nature tend to operate almost exclusively in a digital environment. Communication tends to be by email, live chat, social media, contact forms or over the phone, but in-person is much more rare, especially for SaaS not targeting the enterprise level.
However, old-fashioned interpersonal skills definitely have their place, especially for SaaS who are wanting to try different methods to bring in new clients.
There are times when remote communication falls short—it can be misunderstood, missed altogether or filed away for “later.” This is where making strong, personal connections can be a viable alternative.
Here are five ways to get out there and bring onboard clients in-person.
Events could cover a broad spectrum of gatherings that your target customers are likely to attend. These could include trade shows, conferences, trainings or niche industry events. Your role there could be as a participant, exhibitor or guest speaker.
[tweetthis]Choose events carefully. How likely is it that your target audience will be there?[/tweetthis]
You’re going to want to send someone who is very comfortable in social situations, personable and approachable. Their mission is to get out and meet as many people as possible, preferably people who are in your target group.
- Many conferences and events publish lists of participants ahead of time. You can always look through that list and target specific people to meet.
- If you can, arrange to meet with people at the conference before attending. You could always grab coffee during a break or a drink afterwards.
- Technology can still play a role. Usually you would be handing out business cards, so make it easy for people to get to your website or landing page by including a QR code on the card.
Relevant trade shows as well as many big conferences (like SXSW) provide great opportunities to set up a booth as an exhibitor. These can run to a fair bit of money to book and set up, so you do want to be very targeted about only attending events that should have a large number of your ideal clients.
Keren Phillips of Weirdly attended a conference in their HR niche and wrote about what they had learned from the experience. A key point she makes is that you don’t need to spend big to get noticed; the important part is keeping in perspective what you’re trying to achieve.
They needed to look lively and interesting, so they bought some blow-up palms rather than renting expensive potted plants. They needed a big screen to run demos and found that while two days hire would have cost just over $800, buying one cost around $400. They then gave it away as a prize on the last day.
- Again, send your personable people! It’s about connecting with people on a personal level.
- Positioning is important. You don’t want to languish in the back corner.
- Have simple ways to gather sign ups or prospects. For example, Weirdly put together one of their quizzes specifically for the event, tweeted it out, and had people complete it during their talk.
- Make it fun. Have desirable merchandise and activities that keep people interested.
- Be able to easily show a full demo and explain the value of your SaaS to prospects.
- Get to know other exhibitors—they could end up being your customers.
- See Keren’s tips on nutrition, hydration, clothing and pre-preparation. You may be in for some long days.
Here’s a cool gimmick idea from Weirdly: They hired an artist to do caricatures of anyone who wanted one (which was most people!). The artist drew on the plain side of a heavy card flyer, which also featured Weirdly’s logo, and which had info about their product on the other side.
Whether your SaaS is hosting its own conference or you are speaking at someone else’s event, the important part is that connection you want to make with potential customers. Speaking tends to be more about exposure and personal branding, but it can be a good way to build up a following who could become customers later.
- Provide relevant, actionable tips and try to get some audience interaction going.
- Try speaking at events where there are other key players you would like to meet, for example, in order to form partnerships.
- Make it easy for the audience to find you. Use slides and have website details up.
#2. Get Out To Prospects
If you’re looking to onboard some bigger clients (enterprise, for example), actually getting out and meeting with prospects can be a good strategy.
This gives prospects the chance to ask questions and for you to demonstrate in-person how your SaaS works. From your perspective, actually meeting with someone one-on-one can also give you a much better opportunity to figure out what their needs are and what value looks like to them.
Many early startup SaaS are on very tight budgets and aren’t inclined to travel a lot, but start with your local area, then always plan to meet with prospects when on any incidental travel. Often prospects find it easier to deal with a human face rather than trying to figure everything out remotely.
#3. Complementary Businesses
Which businesses in your area are complementary to yours and target a similar audience to your own?
Get out to those businesses and introduce yourself. Whether you form some kind of affiliate partnership or more of a “gentleman’s agreement” to promote each other, this can be a good way to tap into a new source of ideally targeted customers.
For example, if they are sending out regular newsletters or invoices, you could have an offer for your SaaS included in the email or physical letter. This can be a win-win-win: the other business gets goodwill from customers for offering an extra perk, the customers get a discount offer and you get new customers.
#4. Local Business Groups
Sometimes we forget that there is life happening beyond our computer screens. While digital methods can net you large numbers of customers, it doesn’t hurt to build your personal profile out in the “real” world.
Get involved in your community and join local business groups such as Chambers of Commerce or Young Professionals groups. While you may or may not find ideal customers are members, it’s about building connections—they probably know people who could benefit from your service.
Group members are often well-respected members of their community, so these are great people to get to know. It’s also where you can find out the latest business news for your area—are there new offices being fitted out and businesses coming in who could be good customers?
#5. Business Workshops
There are B2B workshops happening all the time, often hosted by organizations such as BNI. Find clients by being a participant or guest speaker, asking permission to post flyers, or making an offer to workshop participants.
Again, it’s about raising the profile of your SaaS among your target market. The more you are seen out and about (and all over the web), the more likely you are to come to mind when someone is looking for the service you provide.
We recommend you do your homework first though, as in-person meetings and events tend to take up much more of your time and resources than say, inbound marketing or paid advertising. Be very selective about the places you choose based upon the likelihood of finding target customers.
Getting out to in-person meetings and events can help to grow your SaaS by boosting your profile and by making a personal connection with people. It gives you the opportunity to showcase your expertise and really learn about the needs of the prospect.
Try attending events and conferences, joining local business groups, meeting prospects and complementary businesses in-person and having a presence at business workshops.
These things can take up a lot of time, but they can also be a valuable source of personal connections.