SaaS Growth Marketing 101: Resources to Launch, Market, Scale

Oh, SaaS growth marketing…it’s a lot more complex than you think.

With all the moving parts: product, growth, customers, launches, and of course, profitability, it’s pretty easy to get lost in the weeds.

Until now.

Here, you’ll find what you need when it comes to how to successfully launch, market, and grow your product or service.

Whether you’re looking for growth traction, growth scale, or growth elevation, we’ve got you covered with this reference guide.

Here’s how it’s gonna work.

We’ve broken down this guide into sections that will cover everything from marketing and growth to customers and branding. Inside each section, you’ll find tips and tools to get you started.

Are you ready to start learning?

Let’s go.

Startup Marketing

One of the biggest challenges a start up faces is how to market a product or service with both limited time and money.

Part of the importance is tied in with making sure you have started the process the right way, that means having a product or service that hits the right customers.

This is where growth traction comes into play as well. At Stimulead, we know how critical the startup marketing phase is, and why it’s important to know what marketing channels to use (and when to double down on them).

Customers and Products

Some startups make one big mistake.

They focus all their efforts on either their product or their customer.

We don’t need to tell you doing that is the making of a potential disaster.

Yes, of course your product is incredibly important, but so much of your product’s success is going to be based on how well you understand your ideal customer.

After all, it’s your customers who are going to decide if your product or service meets their needs, solves their problems, and helps them fall in love with your brand.

If you aren’t speaking directly to them with your marketing, you’re never going to get very far, no matter how amazing you think your product is.

Remember, finding the right customer doesn’t just apply to business to consumer brands, but also business to business as well. Using a combination of “big” and “little” data to understand your potential buyers is a key part of the process.

Don’t simply rely on your product to have customers come running because you think it’s awesome, you need the right product.

This is where your product/market fit is going to come into play. As Marc Andreessen says a “Product/Marketing fit means being in a good market with a product that satisfies that market.”

Want more on the product/market fit? Check out these posts:

Here’s a nice visual way to understand the Product Market fit from the SlideShare A Playbook for Achieving Product Market Fit:

As you can see, hitting that sweet spot between the product and the market is vital.

Feedback

Once you find that product market fit and begin marketing, it doesn’t just end there. Nope, you want to continuously be looking for and gathering feedback.

And that doesn’t mean feedback for when the product is done, or what your final users think. That means collecting feedback along every single step of the way.

Look to do this through a couple of different channels like surveys, polls, emails, and yes even direct conversations with both current customers and your target personas.

Why is this important?

Because the most successful startups are able to roll with the punches and adapt. As Harvard Business Review says:

Startups are not smaller versions of large companies. They do not unfold in accordance with master plans. The ones that ultimately succeed go quickly from failure to failure, all the while adapting, iterating on, and improving their initial ideas as they continuously learn from customers.

When your brand is open to both customer development and feedback on your product or service you’ll be much more likely to connect with your ideal market through the improvements you’ve made.

Marketing

Realize that SaaS marketing is not quite like the marketing in the rest of the startup world.

Here are some reasons why:

  • The sales cycle is shorter
  • Consumers are much more dependent on information
  • Your customers are looking for a long term solution
  • You’re really selling more of a service than just a product

When you add those up, it can present a marketing challenge.

The good news is there are marketing strategies specifically geared towards SaaS brands that have produced results.

Concepts like going next level on customer support, positioning your brand as the expert in the field, optimizing your site for conversions, and focusing on providing high quality information and education are all good places to start.

Want more? Check out some of these posts:

Having a marketing plan is all well and good, but what about growth? Not to worry, we cover that next, keep reading.

Growth

By now, we’re sure you’ve heard the term “growth hacking” floating around the Internet.

At Stimulead, we’re less into spending countless hours searching for “hacks” and much more into helping you turn your brand into a growth marketing engine. And, we’re not alone.

Sounds better, right?

Still, it’s important as a startup brand to embrace growth. Not only experimenting to try to find what works, but having the mindset that means you’re willing to go out on a limb to really test the impact on your business.

Dive into Growth

But first, a look into what growth really is.

Put simply, it’s the intersection of marketing, testing, and engineering. The sweet spot, if you will, where when hit at the right time and place can become a massive engine that propels your product or service.

Get a primer on growth hacking with some of these posts:

Need more?

If you want a sourcebook all about growth that features over 150 resources, tips, tools, and experts to follow, we’ve got you covered right here.

Strategy and Team Building

Growth is about a lot more than just the trials and tribulations of testing.

No matter how many tests, trials, and experiments you run, you absolutely need to have two things in place to be successful: strategy and team building.

Yup, a strategy is needed when it comes to growth. You need to be able to sit down and not only map out your plans, but also think about how you can best execute them in order to actually achieve results.

GrooveHQ has a great overview of how they used a 12 month growth strategy to achieve their goals. They managed to avoid the trap that many startups fall into, and highlighted in this Andrew Chen post, delusional thinking.

Once you have a strategy in place, it’s time to start building a growth team. The best teams have a combination of both diversity and expertise.

Of course, it’s always important to understand that both your growth strategy and growth team need to adapt and change as your brand hits different levels and phases of overall size and revenue.

Having the right combination of growth marketing, strategies, and team with your product or service can make all the difference.

Analytics

The great thing about SaaS products, apps, and other digital products is they are very easy to track all sorts of data.

This can really give you a leg up on other types of startups, not only because the data can be so incredibly valuable to learning about your customers, but also because it allows you to adapt very quickly when things aren’t working.

So, how to get started? Keep reading…

Data

When it comes to measuring the overall success of your business, data is where it’s at. Now, you don’t need to tell us how important all types of data can be, but if you haven’t quite embraced how to analyzing data, it’s time.

Start with these posts:

Use data to drive the decisions you want to make in your business and remove much of the guesswork that can get you bogged down.

Metrics

So, once you’ve decided to embrace data (woohoo), you need to understand which metrics are important to your brand.

Of course, the metrics can vary somewhat depending on what type of product or service you provide, thus a grouping of SaaS metrics can be slightly different from a grouping of consulting metrics.

But the overall principles are the same, if you aren’t planning your growth effectively, which heavily relies on metrics, you can be in trouble to put it lightly.

There are a number of metrics to track, these include:

  • Customer Cost Acquisition
  • Monthly Recurring Revenue
  • Customer Lifetime Value
  • Churn Rate

The key when it comes to metrics is to find the right mix that works for you.

Pretty much everyone is going to pay attention to these four metrics, but when you combine those with the data and goals you’ve set for your business objectives, you’ll have a solid foundation for success.

Learn more about metrics by reading these posts:

So, how do you actually measure this data? There are plenty of tools to help get you started.

Tools

Thankfully now there are quite a bit of tools you can use to not only help measure your data and analytics, but also help you learn quite a bit about your customers.

While Google Analytics is a great start (and can be a great tool), there are more in depth analytics tools you’re going to want to invest in also.

Analytics, Testing and Growth tools

You can find quite a few tools with their descriptions here, but this is a very good list that will help get you off the ground:

Now that you’ve got the tools to start measuring your data and analytics, it’s time to start taking a deeper dive into your actual business model.

Business Models

Monthly subscription, yearly subscription, no subscription, freemium? These are just some of the questions a brand needs to ask before setting up a business model. You can use a business model canvas to start mapping your own.

Or perhaps, you’ve already come up with a model but it’s not hitting the growth strides you had planned and are looking for a change.

Regardless of what stage your product or service is in, having the right business model and pricing strategy is going to be the foundation for your launch success.

Business model optimization

Let’s look at a couple of different options for models:

None of these are the end all, be all when it comes to pricing. The key is to understand which strategy is going to work best for you, choose the wrong one and you could see your product or service go bust.

Here’s a good video that speaks to pricing as well:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L1C2JB5XJe8

Once you have a solid pricing strategy in place, you can start ramping up towards your launch. This is where the fun happens!

Launch

Launch day is here. The real question is, are you prepared? The last thing you want to do is mess this part up, it’s something that you have to get right to have any hopes of seeing success over the long term.

Part of an effective launch strategy is preparation. As much as the idea of “if you build it they will come” sounds amazing, the reality is quite different.

That’s why you need to have a strategy and an audience before you begin your launch, without it, there can be a long road to building up traction since failure is so common.

Why do product launches fail?

So what kinds of launch strategies are out there? Plenty. Here are some in depth looks at the some of the steps you can take to help boost your chances of launch success:

Don’t forget to harness the power of your own network, the press, and sites like Product Hunt, StartupList and BetaList.

One way we love to learn about what works and what doesn’t is by checking out case studies of successful brands. These case studies on launches offer a ton of gold:

A successful launch is only the first step, next comes growth. Keep on reading to find out some of the best ways to keep growth on track.

Traffic Growth

Once the launch process is underway, new challenges will continue to emerge. Part of that is finding a way to continuously keep traffic growing. After all, unless you continuously find customers who are willing to pay for your product or service, you don’t have much of a brand.

So, clearly a large part of your marketing strategy has to be tied to how you’re planning to drive traffic growth to your site.

Growth is one area where Stimulead knows how to help. We’ve got specific strategies to help your product or service get traction, make the right adjustments, and find the channels that work.

So what goes into growth? It’s a combination of a number of factors.

Content

Content is more important now than ever. But, keep in mind not just any content will do today, consumers are continuously hit with thousands of pieces of content on a daily basis, most of which isn’t that great, so yours needs to stand out.

So, it goes without saying, you need to have your content marketing game ready to roll in order to really see (and drive) growth. Here are a few guides to help you out:

Once you have your content marketing strategy set, it’s time to begin writing. Remember, just any old blog post won’t do.

Your content needs to be engaging, informative, and amazing. That typically means long form content that both teaches your readers something and answers their needs.

Another important aspect has to be content distribution, that includes strategies like guest posting (a very beneficial way of growing traffic when done correctly), paid distribution, and social media.

Email and Social Media

Your blog isn’t the only place where you can grow customers. It’s also important to pay attention to other channels like email marketing and social media as part of the marketing strategy as well.

is one key method of growing a customer base. But it’s only part of it, you need to be able to write everything from awesome sales emails to killer support emails to keep both your list and customer base coming back for more.

Social media is also an exploding channel as well, you can use it both as a paid and free tool to drive growth. Here are some resources:

SEO

Most of your website visitors (and future customers) are going to come to you from search engine traffic. So, obviously, you will need to optimize your website in order to avoid any penalties and ensure your brand is getting traffic.

Part of your overall search engine optimization approach also has to include both link building and on-page SEO as well. You don’t want to miss out on any traffic because you’ve neglected either strategy.

Paid Traffic

Though most startups have a very limited budget, it doesn’t mean you can’t apply some with the funds you have in order to grow traffic.

When looking at paid traffic, look at the following channels to guide you:

Now that you’ve got a plan to get people to your website, it’s time to convert them into customers. Learn how in the next section.

Conversion Optimization

Understanding and mastering conversion optimization is key for any product or service, otherwise, all of your other efforts are simply going to waste.

There are two main places where you want to focus on when it comes to conversion optimization.

The first is on your actual website.

This is where you’re asking people to perform a call to action, things like signing up for an email list, purchasing your product, or opting in for a trial account, for example. There are a number of best practices you can employ to help increase your conversion rate.

The second place is inside your sales funnel.

It should go without saying, but you need to pay attention to the conversion rate of your sales funnel. Any small glitch can actually be pushing customers away, the last thing you need (or want).

As always, we love case studies when it comes to conversion optimization, they help show you what is working right now. Here are a few to dive into:

Once your website and funnel is totally optimized for your ideal customer, you’re going to be able to move much of your focus towards keeping the customers who are signing up for your product or service.

Customer Retention

You’ve worked so hard to get customers for your product or service, the last thing you want to do is lose them.

Now, of course, you need to reasonably expect that customers will churn, that’s just the name of the game. But if the rates are too high, your brand will quickly become unsustainable.

There are a number of customer retention strategies you can put into place but one main focus of your customer retention has to be on having an amazing onboarding process. After all, most customers will start thinking about leaving your product or service very early in the process.

So, in order to keep customer retention rates high, you need nail down your onboarding process. A number of brands have been able to serve as great examples:

Don’t forget, when it comes to customer retention, your strategy should go beyond onboarding. You also want to pay attention to the emails you send and your customer support and success matrix.

Branding

While branding might not be the most important aspect of your overall marketing strategy, it still matters when it comes to selling your product and service.

Remember, that branding is all about your overall customer experience with your product or service. That means understanding that everything you do online carries your message and story; from your social media accounts, to your customer service, to your logo goes into your overall brand.

Especially today, your brand has to be a lot more than just your logo, you need a personality, something that helps connect with and attract customers in a very crowded and savvy marketplace.

Here are a few more posts that feature the finer points about getting branding right:

With the right message, your customers will find it easy to fall in love with your brand and keep coming back for more.

The Next Step

Now that you’ve gotten to the end of this guide, you should be ready to go with building a marketing strategy that can take your product or service to the next level.

If you think this is given you a great overview, but you want to really drive your growth, we can help. Contact Stimulead today to get in touch and we’ll have a discussion on how we can grow your bottom line.

How to Build a SaaS Growth Model Framework

Once you have a product you believe in and it’s selling, founders get anxious to move straight into the growth marketing and scalability phases.

What so many SaaS companies do is start with experiments in a loose, or even well-documented fashion without outlining their growth model first.

Growth “hacking” or marketing isn’t just awareness, acquisition, and experiments.

You need a robust SaaS growth model framework to get sustainable, predictable results.

Read more

Growth Funnels Look Linear But They’re Not

How simple is your sales and marketing funnel?

You get some leads in the top, send ‘em some content and then they come out the bottom (some becoming customers and others not). That sounds ideal, and if every business owner had their way, it would work flawlessly.

But it doesn’t, and probably never has worked in a straight up manner like that.

Read more

20 Growth Marketing Case Studies (Unicorns, Enterprise, SaaS, Apps, Marketplaces)

It’s one thing to have a list of “growth hacks” and a general sense of growth marketing methodology and process…

But quite another to learn how other companies went from zero to traction, then scale and growth.

More than anything else, I regularly come across people asking for growth marketing case studies.

They want to discover what other companies have done. To see what’s possible, across channels, growth processes, “growth hacking”, and growth teams.

Uncovering hidden growth opportunities takes time, effort, analysis, and constant testing.

So, I sat down to analyze and study how “unicorns” made it.

Read more

A Guide to Personalization in Your Emails & Moving Leads Down Funnel

A Guide to Personalization in Your Emails & Moving Leads Down Funnel

Regardless of your industry, you probably send emails. Depending on how many leads you work with, it could be a lot of emails.

Sending these digital notes has become a huge benefit to the sales community, but it’s also getting harder and harder to get a response. The data suggests that the more personalized your emails are, the better reps fair in terms of getting attention.

Basic Sales Funnel for Cold EmailIn a very broad view of a sales funnel you have three basic tiers (illustrated by the image).

There is “Awareness” which is when the prospects either don’t know about you or are starting to figure your brand out. “Consideration” is where they are doing their research and “Conversion” where they are either won or lost.

But, how personal do you get at every level?

It’s impossible to send hundreds of custom, fully “handwritten” notes each and every day to reach out to new prospects. It’s also impractical to send a stock email to someone at the end of the buying cycle.

This post is going to breakdown the subject of personalization into a guide that will hopefully help you in figuring out just how deep to to go. There are three general degrees of personalization and we’ll mention them all quickly, but we’ll focus on tactics for personalizing cold emails specifically for sales enablement folks.

1st Degree: Fully-Generic

Exactly like it sounds, this is an email with copy that is not specific in any way towards anyone. No first name, company name, or basic data at all. Typically, you’ll see these in retail businesses. Think of a restaurant that sends a coupon for 15% off on Tuesdays.

Note: There are very few (if any instances) where fully-generic emails work for sales reps—even during the prospecting and top-of-funnel phase.

3rd Degree: Fully-Customized

Opposite of generic. Every word of each email is written with a specific individual or brand in mind. These emails are typically sent on a few occasions including:

  • Current customers to increase their happiness and extract data to better your sales process.
  • Leads that are farther down funnel and close to making a decision.
  • Follow-up on referrals that you receive from current customers (to make an impression).

2nd Degree: Mass-Customized

Apologies to those who don’t like disorder, but the 2nd degree is where we are going to be spending the majority of our time. A mass-customized email has the most complicated definition as it varies over the course of leads moving down funnel.

Since “fully-generic” emails are out of contention, a form of mass-customized communication is your first line of introduction to prospects. Plus, depending on how many brands/leads you have in your funnel; fully-customized emails may not make sense except for certain leads toward the end of your funnel.

As a result, mass-customized emails become a large chunk of your entire outreach process.

Note: There are always exceptions to any process. If you’re selling a super high dollar product in a limited field of potential buyers, your emails will likely be completely custom (if you use email at all).

Counting the Costs

Using specific tactics outlined in this post should help get you more responses, but you’ll want to evaluate all of your email processes regularly.

Taking a look at how much time you’re spending on outreach emails versus the results you’re getting will help you tweak things over time.

Evaluation MatrixGive it a quick evaluation with a matrix similar to the one in we’ve provided based on an “effectiveness” and “effort” scale to see how things are moving along.

Regardless of how many leads you have, some form of personalization needs to be used. Throwing in the first name of your prospects takes the least amount of time/effort, but is also the least effective. In order to get a high response rate (and in turn a potentially better close rate), it will take more “legwork” upfront.

Before the First Contact

The work in personalizing your emails should begin before you have names is your customer relationship software. In fact, all cold emails should start with your buyer personas.

Traits about your ideal buyers and prospects are going to help you throughout your entire sales cycle including:

  • List building/buying: If you have the qualities your buyers typically share, it narrows down the right people, roles, and even businesses to talk to in the first place.
  • Email personalization: These traits can also reveal potential content needs of your ideal buyers which could help you warm up leads faster.
  • Higher conversions: If your leads are higher quality, you’ll have a higher number of closes with fewer overall prospects.

Key Takeaway: Use your buyer personas/ideal prospect personas to determine who to email before you start.

Specific Tactics for Cold Contacting

Ok, you’ve got a list of high potential contacts and are ready to find the right person and start having meaningful conversations. Let’s get into some personalization tactics.

FTRP Email

Using a find-the-right-person (FTRP) email can be a highly effective way of getting a great response rate. The average company sells to an average of 5.4 personas. Sometimes, this means that the Director of ABC is in charge of buying at one brand, but the Chief XYZ is the decision maker at another.

Sending an email to the three most likely decision makers will usually result in a response to help you either:

  • Find said person
  • Qualify the lead
  • Or even disqualify them and move on

See the example email:

Subject: Are you the right person to speak with?

Hello, {first name}

I’m looking for the person who handles the (your product/industry) decisions. Could you point me in the right direction?

Best,

Your Name

The only personalization needed is the name/position of each of the three potential decision makers.

Getting a Meeting/Call Email

Here’s where you need to evaluate how much effort you put in and how good/effective of a response you receive. Since it’s more of a sliding scale instead of an exact science, we’ll discuss two common personalization tactics. One is a less-effort option and the other requires considerably more.

You can adapt to your needs accordingly.

Firmographic and Demographic Personalization

Moving past the first name of your prospect doesn’t have to be difficult. If you start with your personas, you will be able to insert content and talking points that are general enough to appeal to all while making them feel like it’s a personal conversation.

There aren’t any specific tactics and you’ll have to be creative, but here are the kinds of data you can look to use.

  • Firmographics: Industry-specific tips/resources to break the ice, company size (especially if you have HR/management specific products), specific goals of companies this size (e.g. are they trying to grow through sales or acquisitions).
  • Demographics: Now we’re talking about those 3-5 people who are involved in the buying decision (either directly or indirectly). Speak to their goals, pains, and biggest desires to break the ice.

Deeper Persona Data and Further Research

If your prospect list is fairly short and you can’t afford a low response rate, it could do you some good to blend the lines between mass-customized and fully-customized.

To Be Clear: There is a lot of effort involved, and it doesn’t make sense if you are sending hundreds of emails every week along with your other responsibilities.

There is a great post with a suggestion to spend three minutes and find three key takeaways for each prospect your cold emailing. Look at LinkedIn profiles to find loose or close connections. Their city/town, education, people they follow/know and several other things. Anything that will make the lead listen and respond.

Spending a few minutes researching per lead is 5 hours of work for every 100 leads. If you’re thinking “no way”, then don’t do it. However, if that’s not a slap-in-the-face commitment, give it a shot and look at the results of your effort.

Now, it’s time to act. Look at those buyer personas, the better you know your prospects; the more they’ll respond to your outreach attempts.