According to a 2015 Pacific Crest SaaS study, some of the fastest-growing companies rely on upsells to increase average contract values for their growth strategies. Forty-one percent of SaaS companies in the study utilize field sales to promote and distribute their products, while just 28% of companies combine inside, field, and digital promotions to market their products.
There is plenty of room for SaaS companies to grow, from customer delight to new acquisition strategies. However, growth doesn’t come easily, given how competitive the market has become. The best way to grow a SaaS company in this environment is by leveraging efforts that provide value to existing customers (which will reduce churn and improve lifetime value) and boost brand visibility in carefully-crafted attempts to score more customers.
Here are three of the most effective methods for achieving growth, all of which I have personally used to grow my own SaaS platforms, and encourage my clients at WebProfits to utilize.
1. Build a Community
I believe one of the most crucial elements for growing a customer base with any SaaS is to encourage the development of a community. Many companies try to go this route, but they often take the wrong approach to community development.
Your social channels don’t exactly constitute a community. Your social followers are more interested in self-improvement by reading whatever blips of knowledge you provide.
When I previously interviewed David Spinks, the founder of CMX, he brought up a definition of a community that I think is spot on:
“Community is about bringing people together, giving them a sense of identity and a sense of belonging,” he said. “It’s around common interest and wanting to share passions together. There are a lot of reasons for people to come together, but at its core, interaction among people creates that sense of identity or sense of belonging.”
The primary objective in marketing your SaaS is to gain your prospective customers’ trust. That trust is necessary to get them onboard as long-term subscribers, which will continue to generate revenue.
At no point will you gain a greater level of trust and loyalty than when a community becomes part of the brand’s identity, as well as the identity of individuals.
Just look at Harley Davidson and how the community not only shapes the brand, but also helps define the members of that community by giving them a unique identity based on mutual interests.
Twitch is another awesome example of community-building. Marcus Graham, the Director of Community and Education, built a community of millions of passionate gamers over the span of just a few years, which later led to a billion dollar acquisition by Amazon. It’s an online community where gamers can learn tricks and techniques from one another, share their passions, and participate in something that has permanently changed the way people play and watch video games.
Moz is another SaaS business that understands how important building a community is for boosting customer acquisition and retention rates. The company maintains a tight-knit and helpful community filled with brand ambassadors who have significantly contributed to the growth of Moz’s platform and tools.
When you build a community designed to bring people together and improve their lives, that community flourishes as people join it in droves, and your brand will thrive as well.
2. Content Marketing
Every single day, prospective customers are out there searching endlessly for answers to their burning questions. Some of these questions are critical and require an immediate solution to correct massive problems in the customer’s business. The whole premise of content marketing is providing education, insight, and information that offers answers to questions your audience might not have realized were important.
Content is the perfect supplement to traditional sales teams driven by cold calling and outbound efforts. While other companies spend a tremendous amount of time pitching their services, the most successful SaaS companies provide the best of their knowledge and expertise for free in order to attract more customers.
Blogging is a common technique, but when a company uses a diverse approach to content marketing and incorporates several channels, it will see a greater impact on inbound marketing efforts.
Moz is a shining example of how a company could leverage a thriving community, and its content marketing game is also on point. It creates various content formats to deliver content in the ways that individual audience segments would prefer to digest content. For example, the highly-popular Whiteboard Friday segments from Rand Fishkin fuse video with text, and these segments are usually promoted across a number of channels.
Kissmetrics also knocks it out of the ballpark with content marketing, achieving massive brand lift with a diverse approach to the content it creates and shares. Not only does it often develop quality infographics that are highly shareable on social, but its blog is also frequently updated with guest author content from industry experts. Kissmetrics even hosts webinars featuring well-known and respected professionals as a lead generation tool.
Beyond these inbound strategies, Kissmetrics has a spectacular learning center filled with use cases, tutorials, and best-practices articles to educate prospective customers and offer additional value to current subscribers.
Before we move on to social media tactics, I can’t finish a section on content marketing without mentioning Shopify. This e-commerce platform is, in my opinion, one of the best examples of content marketing done by a SaaS company. If you just spend an hour skimming through its blog, knowledge base, and community, you’ll find that Shopify has a treasure trove of informative resources that anyone could use to launch and run a successful e-commerce store.
The amount of information they give away, which includes amazing insights from Richard Lazazzera, founder of A Better Lemonade Stand and Growth Alumni at Shopify, is simply priceless. The content sends prospective online retailers to Shopify in droves, and it positions the e-commerce platform as the go-to service for launching an online store.
3. Social Media
The SaaS market is still pretty young, but from my own experiences launching ContentMarketer and Linktexting.com, I can tell you that it is seriously competitive out there. You have to drum up quite a bit of creativity and use direct engagement methods to get on your audience’s radar and stand apart in an increasingly-crowded industry.
This is what makes social media such an effective method for building a customer base. The variety of post types and approaches a SaaS company could take in the realm of user engagement make social media outlets ideal for growth.
For instance, Buffer has grown significantly with the help of its unique social media strategy. A majority of the content comes from its blog and tells insightful stories as a prelude to informative content created with the skyscraper technique. This method produces content with massive value that is similar to that produced by Brian Dean of Backlinko and Peep Laja over at ConversionXL.
To expand its efforts beyond content marketing, Buffer leverages multiple social channels to share visually stimulating posts that drive traffic back to the site. The content it features is highly shareable, and incorporating influencers into its strategy (along with leveraging guest posts from those influencers) helped Buffer quadruple the number of social shares of its content and gain more than 1 million users (generating over $4 million in revenue).
There’s no single strategy that’s guaranteed to make social media work for your SaaS. You need to understand your audience first, such as who they are, what they like, and where they spend their time. From that audience research, you’ll determine:
- What content formats they prefer
- Which social channels they use most often
- When they’re most active on social media
- How they share content, and the type of content they’re most likely to share
- Which groups capture their attention
Use this information to formulate your own social strategy. Rather than trying to jump into every social channel at once, focus on the ones that’ll have the most immediate impact with your audience. This will help your SaaS gain traction quickly and grow your customer base at a much faster rate.