In 2020, over 85% of small businesses invested in SaaS solutions, presenting massive opportunities in the B2B software space. The cause? More businesses going remote and investing in geo-independent software solutions.
But there’s bad news. 30% of SaaS companies also saw an increase in churn rates over the past year. This is perhaps due in part to there being more competition in the space and businesses searching for faster, better, and more effective solutions.
What’s a growing SaaS business to do?
In this guide, we’re covering the most effective SaaS growth strategies you can use to generate more traffic, sales, and revenue in 2021.
Ready to growth hack your way to success? Let’s get started.
1. Adopt a Product-Led Growth Model
Product-led growth (PLG) is a buyer-focused growth model that relies on the product itself as the main driver of customer acquisition and conversion.
Businesses that adopt a PLG strategy are able to grow faster and more sustainably by building a pipeline of users who are interested in their products and likely to convert into paying customers.
This model is commonly associated with “freemium” tools, lead magnets, and free trials, but it is so much more than that. The goal with PLG is to meet the demands of the buyer, which means creating a product they’ll love then marketing that product directly to those same users.
Example of Product-Led Growth – Calendly
Calendly is a great example of the PLG model because it addresses problems that almost everyone who schedules meetings has. And since there are virtually no barriers to entry, business owners and their invitees can sign up in just a few clicks.
This is a highly accessible product that’s easy to use and easy to obtain. Created with users in mind, Calendly presents a simple solution for a free-to-low cost – and this model has allowed them to grow to over 8 million monthly users.
2. Ungate Your Content
Many brands “gate” their content behind an opt-in wall, requiring users to provide their contact information before gaining access to a free tool, downloadable, or lead magnet. But this creates another roadblock users have to pass through before they can access the information they’re searching for, which can ultimately hinder trust and hurt your conversion rate.
At Elevate Demand, we take a different approach. It’s an unpopular mindset in the B2B space, but ungating your content is a great way to build trust, brand awareness, and visibility WITHOUT hurting the customer relationship.
We prefer to provide most information outright so buyers can decide for themselves whether yours is the right brand to work with or buy from. Transparency goes a long way. Would you rather have cold leads now or hot leads who are already itching to buy from you?
3. Shift Your Sales Roles.
In past growth models, it used to be that it was your marketing team’s job to acquire leads and pass these along to your sales team.
The problem with this model is that inevitably, a plateau in sales would leave marketing and sales pointing fingers, with sales saying, “These leads suck!” and marketing saying, “You’re just not selling right!”.
Today, this dynamic has changed. Buyers no longer reach out to sales to learn about your product. Instead, they are looking for information right out the gate to learn about your brand, compare solutions, and decide whether you are the right fit.
If you suffer from a low lead-to-win rate or poor “lead quality”, it’s likely because your marketing didn’t do its job of shifting the beliefs of their buyers to build urgency and real demand.
Your entire mindset has to change. This is where Buyer-Led Growth comes in.
4. Implement a Buyer-Led Growth Model
In the new Buyer-Led Growth marketing model, marketing is no longer about getting awareness and acquiring customers. It’s about shifting the beliefs through your brand narrative, creating urgency, and crafting a compelling offer.
Buyer-Led Growth puts the buyer at the center of your entire brand’s identity, value proposition, marketing strategy, and beyond. You are first and foremost focused on what the buyer wants and where they are in their journey.
Provide buyers with the information they are searching for and they are more likely to trust you and, ultimately, buy from you. This is when users are likely to reach out to sales of their own accord, making for a faster and more effective sales process.
5. Craft a Strong Brand Narrative
Creating a Brand Narrative is the first step in the Buyer Led Growth formula. This starts with establishing the narrative in your buyer’s head that takes them on the journey from where they are now to where they realize they have a need and desire for your product.
Where most brands get stuck is focusing on pain points, but a narrative that focuses on pain points falls short when your potential buyers don’t even realize they have “pain” to begin with. Instead, you need a story that’s going to shift their beliefs so they recognize their pain and realize they need to take action.
Your brand narrative starts with a “start here” page. This page should exist within your main navigation and will work to create new demand from cold visitors (likely 80% of your traffic).
Your brand narrative should cover:
- What your buyers believe to be true right now.
- What will happen if they don’t change this belief.
- How you help buyers with this new belief.
Not sure what a brand narrative looks like? Check out our Start Here page as an example.
6. Build an Effective Referral Program
Creating happy customers is one of the best ways to build a consistent source of referrals for your business. Loyal customers are likely to send new customers your way, maximizing your reach with minimal effort on your part.
There are a few key ingredients to building a successful referral program. These include:
- Providing the best possible experience to your customers.
- Offering an outstanding product users love.
- Cultivating customer trust and loyalty (through contact, campaigns, and customer service).
- Nurturing brand ambassadors and working with influencers (if applicable).
- Reaching out for positive customer testimonials, reviews, and referrals.
- Simplifying the referral process so customers can easily send new business your way.
- Offering incentives (commission, discounts, etc.) to customers to generate more referrals
- Staying consistent with positive customer service and support.
7. Create Buyer-Focused Content
Your website, social media, and advertising content should all support your Brand Narrative. In essence, all of these will be assets that speak to the interests of your target buyers and move them toward the end goal (purchase).
Your main objective here should be to create value BEFORE capturing value, i.e. ungating your content so users can access the information they need ASAP
Once a buyer begins to understand your brand narrative, you need to create content that helps them see what value that you provide. Work to educate buyers on your solution and what the capabilities are before ever pushing them toward sales. Make your pricing structure visible across your website for full transparency and to build trust.
Your content should work to help buyers fully understand the value of your product and how it will benefit them BEFORE they ever face a sales interaction.
8. Run LinkedIn Ads
If you adopt a Buyer-Led Growth model, you already have a strategy for creating valuable content, appealing to your target buyers, and nurturing them into paying customers. Now it’s time to think about traffic sources and how to utilize them to facilitate SaaS growth.
One of the primary drivers of traffic for our B2B SaaS clients is LinkedIn Ads. LinkedIn is THE platform for the B2B space, and pay-per-click (PPC) is an effective way to drive more traffic to your website, fast.
We recommend utilizing retargeting and segmentation to reach the right audience wherever they are in their buyer’s journey. Then you can direct these users to your Start Here page (i.e. Brand Narrative) and other valuable pieces of content.
With large budgets you’re changing things faster. Consider this, with an ad budget of $25k/mo in LinkedIn you’re changing ads weekly. Running 5-10+ segmentation combinations, with 2+ ads per segment and then messaging optimizations.
Running LinkedIn as a growth strategy is a lot of work. Most agencies structure LinkedIn based on efficiency not growth.
But that’s your opportunity. No one gets past the surface to find the oil. Structure LinkedIn in a way to maximize your growth learnings and then make revenue adjustments. It requires a lot more work, but it has way more upside.
9. Build Out Detailed Customer Personas
They say that “the brand that knows the customer best, wins”, and this is especially true when it comes to B2B SaaS growth. With so much competition in the market, you need to know what makes your audience tick and why they are more likely to choose you versus “the other guy”.
Again, many brand focus on pain points here but this is where you need to consider where your buyers are NOW, not where you want them to be.
Customer Personas go far beyond demographics. You’ll want to conduct audience research surveys to uncover:
- What are they experiencing or struggling with at the moment?
- Are they even searching for solutions yet?
- What have they tried already?
- What issues, if any, did they have with those solutions?
- What questions do they have about X problem or Y topic?
- What is their #1 goal when it comes to overcoming X problem?
In creating these personas, you’ll want to get to the root of your buyers’ habits, beliefs, and behavior. This will help you create content and campaigns that speak to where they are in their buyer’s journey – and then nurture them into viable prospects.
10. Utilize Content Growth Stacking
As you implement your SaaS growth strategies, you’ll need to find ways to scale your efforts. This is where we recommend a method called “Growth Stacking” to make the most of your content and marketing campaigns.
The goal of Growth Stacking isn’t to reinvent the wheel but to optimize what’s already working to drive maximum success.
At Elevate Demand, we have a unique process for stacking growth. This includes:
- Removing friction across the buyer’s journey. This has an immediate impact on ROI and increases revenue.
- Establishing a brand narrative to create new urgency and build demand from cold audiences.
- Building out our content playbook of high-value content.
- Running paid acquisition (typically, LinkedIn Ads).
- Layering on new growth opportunities from a variety of channels – Organic LinkedIn, Video, Reddit, etc.
- Applying search engine optimization to drive organic traffic and promote valuable content.
- Executing across the funnel at all stages – Acquisition, Activation, Retention, Referral, and Revenue (AARRR).
Here are two examples of what this may look like:
- If you’re publishing content on LinkedIn, consider adding videos, audio, and/or images.
- If you’re finding success on YouTube, find ways to 5x your output with more video content. Implement YouTube SEO for maximum reach.
If you keep your eyes open, you’re likely to uncover loads of opportunities to stack your efforts and scale your SaaS growth.
11. Implement SEO Content Clusters
Search engine optimization is a method for optimizing your website for organic (namely, Google) search. It allows you to target the key terms your prospective buyers are using to find products like yours, get their questions answered, and find solutions to their problems.
SEO content clusters consist of “hub and spoke” content that starts with a broader category post that’s then supported by more specific, topic-related articles. With this structure, you’re able to improve your rankings for both high competition (broad) and low competition (long-tail) keywords.
For example, if you offer Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software, an overarching category post could be “What is a CRM?”, which is then supported by articles such as “How to Use a CRM for Small Business”, “10 Best CRM Tools for Businesses”, “Top [Brand] CRM Integrations”, and the like.
The key here is to identify the terms your audience is using to find information about your brand and what you offer. You can use tools like SEMRush.com or Ahrefs.com to find these keywords, analyze the data, and come up with SEO-friendly content ideas.
12. Stop Focusing on “Tactics”
It’s easy to get focused on “tactics” or “hacks” to bypass the real work that needs to be done to drive SaaS growth. This work involved a complete mindset shift away from the old SaaS growth models and toward Buyer-Led Growth.
A/B testing, swapping out headlines, fussing with web page copy, etc. are all futile if you haven’t adopted a buyer-focused approach. At the foundation of all of your marketing efforts should be a deeper understanding of what your audience wants and how they are searching online.
It’s expected – When friction presents itself, most marketing teams get stuck updating tactics. But the reality is you should be focusing on reducing friction across sales and marketing.
Buyer-Led Growth starts with removing this friction so that you align with how B2B buyers want to buy today. This one shift alone could be an immediate growth lever for your B2B SaaS company.
Removing friction is not always easy, but it can be the fastest way to accelerate growth in the short term. Here’s some key places to look for friction:
- Confusing value proposition that often requires sales assistance to understand the value.
- Misleading calls to action – “See a Demo” when it’s actually “Get a Demo”
- Too many fields on a form. Especially low intent forms such as an ebook or guide.
- Hidden or confusing pricing or an inability for a buyer to understand the value.
- Failure to address buyers fears, questions, objections, and anxieties in a way that creates urgency and demand
- Lead follow up takes hours or days, if not longer
Bottom line being relentless at identifying friction and removing it can drive serious growth.
13. Utilize Effective CTAs
One of your main objectives in implementing any of these included SaaS growth strategies should be to reduce friction across your entire funnel AARRR. To do this, one strategy is to craft more effective CTAs that make it easy for users to contact you and/or find the information they are looking for.
Your high-value content shouldn’t be buried in your blog, This is why we highlight the need for a Start Here page or otherwise obvious brand narrative. This gets users started on the right path and leads them toward the content that will ultimately nurture them into becoming a customer.
Brainstorm what types of CTAs align with various stages of the buyer’s journey. For some examples:
- Awareness: “Learn More”, “Start Here”, “Need Help?”, “Download Free Guide”, etc.
- Consideration: “Who We Are”, “About Us”, “Why Work With Us?”, “Read Customer Reviews”, etc.
- Decision: “Start Free Trial”, “Add to Cart”, “Get Started”, “Buy Now”, “Subscribe”, etc.
Your CTAs should be concise and their placement should make sense for the offer you are trying to direct users to. CTAs are often one of the last things users interact with before they decide to buy, so make them count.
14. Track the Right KPIs
How do you measure SaaS growth without identifying the right Key Performance Indicators (KPIs)? When it comes to your B2B SaaS marketing strategy, the metrics you measure (and how you analyze them) are an essential part of assessing your business’s growth.
Many marketers stop at traffic numbers, “engagement”, or number of leads, but these tell you very little about the success of your marketing. Our goal is to see how your efforts are moving the needle in terms of revenue, ROI, and customer retention.
Are you tracking the right KPIs? Here are the 16 most important metrics you should be measuring in your B2B SaaS business.
15. Create Linkable Assets
Backlinks (links from other websites to yours) are an important component of an effective SEO marketing strategy. In order to increase your rankings in Google search and drive more organic traffic, you’ll want to acquire high-quality links from reputable sites.
Creating linkable assets is one way to attract backlinks organically. These might include downloadable, free tools, resource libraries, how-to guides, product catalogs, ebooks, videos, webinars, and more.
Linkable assets also bring the benefit of providing ungated value to your target audience. This can work to build trust and land more customers. Why not create content that achieves many goals at once?
16. Overhaul Your Social Media Marketing
Don’t get lazy with your social media marketing. If you want to see massive growth in 2021 and beyond, you’ll need to be intentional about your content and engagement strategy.
Most of our clients use LinkedIn for their marketing, as it’s one of the biggest players in the B2B space. You can implement both an organic and paid LinkedIn strategy to maximize your reach.
For example, you can stack your growth by posting 2x a week and then upping your efforts once you see success. Then you may decide to post daily, layer on video, and add updates to your company LinkedIn page.
Remember, you should be posting content that provides value to your audience, answers their questions, and moves them toward the realization that you offer the solution they’re looking for. No hard sell necessary!
17. Utilize Podcast Marketing
Podcasting has become increasingly popular in recent years, as it’s an effective way to create content quickly and distribute it across a variety of platforms. This form of marketing can easily feed into your growth stacking strategy to generate more visibility for your brand.
For example, podcasters can stack growth by making bite-sized videos, targeting key accounts as guests, repurposing content for various platforms, and republishing content on their blog. Podcasting also presents limitless opportunities when it comes to providing high-value content that gets audiences itching to buy from you.
18. Launch Micro-Events in Different Cities
A lesser-known B2B SaaS marketing strategy is to host small-scale events in various cities to drum up visibility and increase your brand’s authority.
How this works is you invite a different guest speaker to every event – a key speaker who is popular with your buyers. Utilize high-production film and audio capture to each event so you have quality content to share to your marketing channels.
Micro-events are especially accessible if you don’t have a major budget to spend. Even so, you can distribute this recorded content across platforms to get even more bang out of your buck.
19. Solidify Your Unique Value Proposition
Most growth blockers come in the form of friction and most friction is caused by a disconnect between the buyer and the brand’s Unique Value Proposition (UVP) and messaging.
Your UVP is a statement of what makes your brand different from your competitors, the right choice for your customer’s, and the superior choice in the market. It also encapsulates your company’s values and mission statement.
A value prop like “We help small businesses grow” or “We make running your business easier” are not, in fact, value propositions at all – they are far too broad. Instead, you should focus on the unique needs of your unique audience and the unique features and benefits your brand brings to the marketplace.
Once you’ve established your UPV, this should be evident in all of your marketing content. This will bridge the gap between where your potential buyers are now and where you’d like them to be – buying from you and loyal to your brand.
There’s no cookie-cutter approach to SaaS growth.
The reality is that here’s no cookie cutter approach to SaaS growth. While there are a variety of strategies you can use, the success of these strategies is highly dependent on you understanding the needs of your target buyers.
Further, don’t need an agency that passes you off to an account manager. Your audience is different, your lifecycle is different, your business model is different, and your business is different.
You need to find growth opportunities and then figure out how to stack your growth. This is what we do. Here’s how we can help.