There’s never been a better time than right now to be a SaaS company. In fact, the market is growing so quickly that Gartner’s 2012 prediction that it would reach $22 billion by 2022 has already been proven woefully wrong (however optimistic it might have been at the time).
In 2014, Forrester estimated that the figure would be at $133 billion and that it would be there by 2020. In retrospect, a far more accurate assumption.
These favorable conditions, however, don’t necessarily make it any easier for professionals tasked with selling SaaS to do their job. Cloud technology might be everywhere, but it’s still a relatively new field that poses its own unique set of challenges. If you’re a SaaS vendor, then digital marketing will be a key aspect of your sales strategy. Make a mess of it and you’ll negatively impact your business, which is why it’s advisable to employ the services of a SaaS marketing expert.
Unfortunately, not everyone has the budget to call in the big guns. With so many tech start-ups bootstrapping their way into existence, that all-important digital marketing pillar will very likely remain in-house. Probably in the same hands as the person who’s building the tech, issuing the invoices, and making the coffee.
Not a great idea, but if it’s your only option then it’s a case of running with the big dogs or staying on the porch. So, let’s get to work. Here are four common marketing problems SaaS companies typically run into.
Challenge 1: Getting yourself noticed
Until now, SaaS marketers have been spending most of their time and effort trying to convince companies that they have a problem only their solution can fix. Indifference was their largest barrier to entry, but now suddenly there’s more to compete with.
Analyst reports are claiming that smart process apps are often overlapping with SaaS. And, while SaaS companies have been enjoying the US market’s healthy appetite for their solutions, traditional software providers have taken to Europe and Asia and entrenched themselves there.
As a result, SaaS vendors are faced with more than just ignorance and indifference. Companies who want to take advantage of the predicted surge in growth must move beyond the obvious and look instead for new marketing methods that will enable them to stand out in a sea of sameness and at the same time, reach more prospects.
Challenge 2: Earning your customers’ loyalty
Data migration is no longer the headache it once was. Switching a company from an incumbent system to your cloud solution is child’s play and you more than likely have a painless process in place for handling this.
But if it’s that easy for you, it’s going to be just as easy for your competitor. This means that customer retention and customer acquisition are equally important. Now more than ever, marketing that’s aimed at building customer loyalty and engagement needs to happen in tandem with whatever lead generation activity you have going on.
Challenge 3: Reaching more of the low hanging fruit
The value of the average client contract is a lot lower for most SaaS companies than it is in a traditional hosted technology business. Historically, the B2B technology sales cycle was always a lengthy and consultative one.
However, this ‘pounding the pavement for leads’ approach is financially prohibitive for many cloud technology companies today. What they need to do instead is bring in a high volume of lower value customers. And the best way to do that is with inbound marketing.
For SaaS companies, the best way forward is to have a sophisticated marketing and lead generation machine that gives the prospect everything they need to make a decision ‘on their own. With that in place, the sales team is free to focus their efforts on converting the higher-value customers.
Challenge 4: Dealing with ‘old school’ naysayers
There are still a lot of places around the world where the benefits of cloud computing have yet to be accepted. In places like this, your state-of-the-art SaaS product will replace your client’s existing software system.
That probably won’t be something you lose sleep over, but somebody else very likely will. That somebody is the person who more than likely spent years building the current system.
They’re not going to be all that keen to relinquish their hold on it, let alone see it replaced completely. These are the people you need to win over because very often they’re the ones the decision-makers turn to first for advice during the buying process.
As the SaaS vendor, you’ll need to be prepared to overcome an onslaught of objections. They’ll claim that the cloud isn’t secure, for instance, or they’ll bemoan the fact that data migration is a headache-inducing process and not worth the risk. Come prepared, be nice about it, and chances are good you may just win them over.
In addition to her role as founder and CEO of TopLine Comms, Heather Baker is editor of the award-winning B2B PR Blog and human to London’s office dog about town. She’s also a huge fan of inbound marketing (is there any other kind?).