What Is SaaS Marketing and Why Is It So Goddamned Tricky?

Software as a Service (SaaS) is a product that needs to be sold to make money, just like any other. But unlike more traditional products, SaaS marketing brings some unusual and often tricky challenges to the table. These, of course, must be tackled systematically by any SaaS marketer if they wish to be effective.

In this article, we’ll look at some of the main reasons why SaaS marketing is challenging, and some strategies that can be used to sell this type of product successfully.

We aren’t selling widgets here

Not in the classical sense, anyhow. The product being marketed in this case is largely intangible, even invisible. This makes it harder for customers, who are usually not experts in the field of software, to determine the value of your SaaS compared to other similar services. If your service is any good, it is constantly being updated and improved, which is generally not the case with physical, more conventional products.

What’s more, when people buy a packaged product, they are expecting to only pay for it once. A major challenge of SaaS marketing is convincing clients that your service is worth paying for month after month.

Yes, it is a competition

Competition in the SaaS market is fierce, and things are getting more crowded every day. This is an obvious challenge from a marketing perspective, because you need to not only make yourself visible, but also convince consumers that your software subscription is more worthy of their hard-earned cash than competitors’. 

You need to be very clear on what makes your brand unique, and focus on that value proposition in your SaaS marketing efforts. Prospective clients need to understand why your service is the best fit for them and why they shouldn’t buy from anyone else. 

In differentiating yourself, it can be tempting to focus your marketing message on lower price, but this can quickly backfire; it leaves you right back at square one the moment a new, cheaper service hits the market. A better strategy is to offer a free trial period to allow customers to become confident that your software is right for them.

A split-second first impression

Unlike with B2B contracts, which usually involve a lengthy negotiation period, you have a very limited window in which to make an impression as a consumer SaaS marketer. 

When a client is looking to purchase a software solution, they usually go through the following steps in rapid succession: online research, product comparisons, asking for recommendations, reading reviews, possibly watching a demo video, and signing up for a free trial period if one is available. All of this will usually take no more than a few hours. 

The very nature of online delivery of invisible products is one of instant gratification and quick buys. SaaS purchases may not be a true impulse purchase, but the negotiation time is limited to nonexistent. That means whatever SaaS marketing you do needs to have a broad reach and instant appeal. You must immediately and clearly communicate to as many people as possible how your service fulfills their needs.

Effective SaaS marketing takes effort

One of the most effective SaaS marketing tools is useful, high-quality content, often in the form of blog posts. Good content marketing builds consumer trust and gives your company credibility and authority in your industry. Not to mention, it is an excellent way to improve your ranking in search engines, which is vitally important for helping potential clients find you.

The tricky part, of course, is that writing and curating great content takes time and effort. It is a smart investment, because once the content is created, it will continue working for you in the long-term. Still, the initial investment can be challenging, especially if you aren’t experienced in content marketing and SEO.

Buying ad campaigns on Facebook and elsewhere can be a great way to boost visibility of your software service. The problem with paid advertising is that its benefits go away as soon as you stop your ad campaign. Unlike content marketing, which has a long-term ROI, ads that you have purchased are only effective as long as they are being released—there is little to no carryover benefit.

Good service, loyal customers

Without a doubt, the best way to market your SaaS is to never forget that you are selling a service. Taking care of your customers will help your business succeed in two critical ways: by building customer loyalty, and by bringing in new customers via word-of-mouth.

Satisfied customers will stick around and pay for your service month after month, year after year. Losing even one client can put a serious dent in your future sales over time, and if they leave because of poor customer service, you’ll be kicking yourself for not providing a better experience. It is estimated that increasing customer retention by just 5% can increase your profits as much as 95%.

In addition to making sure your customer support and service is excellent and proactive, you can also appeal to existing clients by advertising special offers to them, loyalty discounts, or referral programs.

A SaaS marketer puts it all together

As you can see, there are plenty of unique challenges in the field of SaaS marketing that even many people with experience in traditional marketing find difficult to overcome. From the invisible nature of the product, to the cut-throat competition, to the imperative to deliver the best customer experience so that customers continue to renew their subscriptions, there’s no question about it—SaaS marketing is a tricky beast. But with the right strategies, a customer focus and a flexible mindset, there is no reason that these challenges become a barrier to your success.