Imagine navigating the vast landscape of software as a service (SaaS) without a compass to guide you.
Product marketing has emerged as a pivotal tool to steer your SaaS business towards success.
But what sets it apart from traditional marketing? How can it unlock untapped potential for your SaaS business?
In this comprehensive guide, we will be your compass, showing you the path to product marketing mastery.
Join us as we navigate through the intricacies of SaaS marketing, equipping you with the knowledge and insights to propel your SaaS business toward unparalleled growth in 2023.
What is SaaS Product Marketing?
SaaS product marketing is the strategic process of bringing your innovative SaaS product to the market. It’s the engine that powers your business toward success.
It encompasses the messaging and positioning of your product and the strategy to differentiate your product’s features and benefits in the market.
It goes beyond traditional marketing efforts by catering specifically to the unique needs of SaaS products and apps – whether it’s the challenges of selling a digital product or driving adoption and retention among users.
Product marketing in SaaS is indispensable for driving demand, adoption, and expansion of your product.
Let’s take a look at how product marketing teams run marketing efforts like a well-oiled machine.
Role of Product Marketing Teams in a SaaS Business
Product marketing in the world of Software as a Service (SaaS) is the game-changer that can skyrocket your product's success.
It is the trifecta of product, sales, and customer success.
If your product marketing isn’t on point, your other marketing efforts will fall short too.
Assembling a top-notch product marketing team is crucial - they’ll know the product inside-out, have a much better understanding of industry trends and competitors and overall be a cross-functional team that serves your product and your sales and marketing efforts.
They bring your product and users together, setting the stage for success by focusing on the middle-to-bottom part of the SaaS marketing funnel while leaving lead generation to the demand generation and brand marketing teams.
Your high-performing product marketing team should include:
- Product marketing experts
- In-app marketing experts
- Content marketing experts
- Search Engine Optimization (SEO) tailored to your business size
- Strong communication between product marketers and product engineering and sales teams
With the right team, understanding of the product and market, and collaborations across functions, your product marketing team can unlock the true potential of your SaaS product.
Creating a SaaS Product Marketing Plan
SaaS marketing strategy for consists of two distinct phases: Pre-Launch and Post-Launch.
Let's take a closer look at these.
Pre-Launch SaaS Product Marketing Strategy
The general objective of a pre-launch SaaS marketing strategy is to successfully introduce a product to the market and drive free trial acquisitions, utilizing a comprehensive go-to-market plan that encompasses various tactics. Here's how you can do it:
1. Define Your Ideal Customer Profile (ICP)
Do you know who your perfect customer is? Your ICP (Ideal Customer Profile) is a detailed description of your ideal customer - the one who will love your product or service because it's reducing their costs, improving their efficiency, or overall improving their bottom line.
And the best part? Creating a well-defined ICP benefits you too. Besides revenue, you'll get referrals from active users, customer insights, and testimonials, all of which help grow your business.
So, how do you develop your ICP? You need to know who your ideal customer is, where they work, and their day-to-day challenges.You can identify buyer personas through user behavior analytics and user surveys.
Once you've got your target customers down, you can streamline your product marketing efforts accordingly.
Next is mapping the customer journey - all the channels and touchpoints that customers engage with throughout their journey – providing valuable insights into their experience and behavior.
With this, you can gain a holistic view of your customer feedback and make informed decisions to optimize and enhance their interactions with your SaaS product – ultimately leading to increased customer satisfaction, customer retention, and thus more long-term customers.
2. Understand Your Competitive Landscape
It's crucial to research and analyze your competitors to figure out how you can position your product. It's also important to consider macro and micro trends that could impact your launch, both now and in the future. By being aware of industry changes and adapting to them, you can set yourself apart from competitors. For example, when GDPR was introduced in 2018, Cognism built compliance into its platform, which became a selling point for them.
But it's not just about knowing your competitors - you also need to understand your customers' alternatives. What other options do they have besides your product or service?
Once you've understood where your product stands in the face of all your competitors, you need to focus on differentiation. What makes your product stand out in your target market?
Your product should be tailored to address the unique needs of a well-defined target audience in a way that surpasses any other solution in the target market.
It's about understanding the pain points of your target audience and presenting your product as the ultimate solution that stands out as a leader in meeting their needs.
And finally, keep an eye on industry trends that could affect your business. These could be trends within your market or broader trends that impact local economies, like the ones we relied on to differentiate ourselves in the fintech industry. In the end, it's all about standing out in the market. So, take the time to research, analyze, and adapt to make your go-to-market strategy a success.
In a world where competition is fierce, effective product positioning is the key to driving the success of your product!
3. Strategic Narrative, Positioning, and Reaching Message-Market Fit
Words have a powerful impact on the buying process, but they are just a part of the bigger picture. It all starts with finding a strategic narrative - Andy Raskin's Promised Land strategic narrative (part of his Greatest Sales Deck I've Ever Seen post) is a great starting point. He also emphasizes how the story is the strategy - and that it should ideally come top-down from the CEO.
This narrative sets the context for why your product or service is needed.
Positioning is about finding your place in the market and clarifying where your company stands among the competition. You want to avoid overlapping with established players in the market and instead find a piece of the market that's of no interest to competitors.
Once you have your strategic narrative and positioning, it's time for messaging. Your message needs to be aligned with your audience's goals and priorities, addressing their desired gain and the pains they want to avoid. It should speak to the jobs to be done and resonate with your target market.
In an Ungated Marketing podcast episode, Wynter CEO Peep Laja emphasized the importance of having a message-market fit so that your message is aligned with your audience's needs. Remember to revisit your strategic narrative every 2 to 4 years and adjust it as the world changes. If you notice that it has become irrelevant, it's time to make some changes.
Strong messaging helps you respond to and lead your customers. When your messaging is intuitive, advertising performs better and leads to a more seamless business experience. Perfecting messaging is key for connecting with your audience and generating authenticity and credibility.
4. Setting Targets and How to Measure Them
You need to first set up business goals and then decide on metrics based on different business goals.
To start with, you can use the Objectives and Key Results (OKR) framework for your business goals. Then, use key performance indicators (KPIs) that measure specific metrics.
Here are the metrics typically measured for SaaS marketing:
- Customer Acquisition Cost (CAC)
- Monthly Recurring Revenue (MRR), Annual Recurring Revenue (ARR)
- Gross Revenue
- Net Revenue Retention (NRR)
- Activation Rate
- Customer Retention Rate
- Churn Rate
- Search Engine Rankings
- Team Velocity
By leveraging appropriate KPIs and OKRs, you can gain valuable insights into your SaaS marketing performance and use a data-driven approach to optimize your strategies and achieve your business goals effectively.
5. What’s Your Tactic of Choice?
Reaching your targets is like conducting an orchestra. You need all the elements of your marketing strategy to work together seamlessly if you want to create a harmonious symphony. But what specific roles do each element play?
First, you need quality data to target the right people. This is your foundation. Then, you need a marketing plan that allows you to test and optimize your tactics.
When it comes to SaaS marketing strategy, there’s a multitude of tactics, marketing content, marketing activities, and marketing material being executed across various channels – each with its own costs and outcomes.
But it's ideal to focus on one tactic at a time and scale it as your business grows.
You can kick off your SaaS marketing strategy by driving acquisition through organic traffic.
If this works, indicating that there is a viable market to serve – you can then consider using paid traffic to boost the number of qualified leads, trials, and demo requests generated through content marketing.
Once you have that, it's ideal to focus on your SEO-first content strategy. This is likely to help your potential customers find you on Google and power your inbound engine.
Now onto the post-launch stage...
Post-Launch SaaS Product Marketing Strategy
Once your product launches, a successful SaaS product marketing strategy heavily relies on leveraging marketing automation.
First, you've got to understand how the stages in the user journey apply to your product and how the product messaging must change for each stage:
Primary Onboarding Process
This is the initial stage of onboarding - where you
guide your potential users toward understanding and experiencing the true value of your product.
You’ve got to lead them to the "Aha! moment" and ultimately reach the activation stage.
Secondary Onboarding Process
This is where you introduce your customer base to product features and relevant content that offer additional value.
These secondary standalone features offer a deeper understanding of the diverse functionalities of your product – showing them benefits that go beyond the initial activation stage and maximizing audience engagement.
Tertiary Onboarding Process
This stage focuses on retention, loyal customers, and driving account expansion.
At this point in the user journey, your current customers already have a clear understanding of your product’s value and are comfortable using the majority of its features.
The emphasis in this stage is on retaining users and identifying opportunities for account expansion by upselling to premium plans and offering them additional access to premium features or services.
By creating a positive user experience and providing ongoing support, you can foster long-term customer loyalty and drive continued growth for your SaaS product.
Also, check out guide to product demo
SaaS Product Marketing Automation
Imagine having an army of tireless virtual assistants at your beck and call, diligently handling repetitive tasks with lightning-fast precision.
That's the power of marketing automation.
If you think about the sheer scope of work involved in post-launch SaaS marketing strategies – there’s a ton of repetitive tasks that will grow exponentially as your company grows.
From email campaigns to consistent interactions, marketing automation empowers you to deliver a superior user experience while freeing up valuable time and resources to focus on higher-level strategic initiatives.
It's a win-win solution that's transforming the landscape of modern marketing, and as a SaaS marketer, you should be taking full advantage of its boundless potential. Let’s see how!
Product Marketing Automation for Your SaaS Marketing Strategy
Here's an outline you can use to build your own product marketing automation strategy:
- Map out the ideal customer profile and user journey
- Identify what repetitive tasks need to be automated
- Define clear goals and objectives for each automated task
- Select the automation tool that aligns with your goals and the channels that you interact with users the most
- Set and measure your KPIs to consistently track your progress and make necessary changes to your strategy
Also read: What is marketing enablement?
Top 5 SaaS Product Marketing Trends for 2023
However, with increasing competition, it's crucial to find ways to differentiate your brand. As a business owner, staying ahead of the curve with the latest SaaS marketing trends can be your key to success.
Here’s some key trends for SaaS Marketing in 2023:
- Videos & Interactive Demos
Detailed and impactful walkthroughs are a make-or-break factor for SaaS marketing. As software solutions, showcasing the product's features in the right way is crucial for establishing credibility. Videos backed by virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) have been changing the game for demo videos.
But here's the twist: demos have leveled up even more. Interactive Demos have emerged as a powerful no-code option for companies to showcase their product in use even before the free trial stage. Sales teams can personalize demos for bigger accounts, and interactive demos can also be displayed on your website for all visitors too. Interactive demos effectively engage customers and highlight the value your product brings to them, taking your sales pitch to the next level.
- Automated Customer Support
As a SaaS business, you know the importance of covering all the bases for customer excellence. From an outstanding product to efficient customer services, you have processes to regulate. The good news is that automation has made customer support easier than ever. Automation of the customer success process simplifies user acquisition, engagement, and retention.
By providing easily accessible educational content, onboarding for new customers, and responsive chatbots, you can keep clients satisfied and engaged for the long haul. Self-service options are also becoming more prevalent – this Microsoft study says that over 77% of consumers have used self-service online portals for queries.
- Data Enrichment
Implementing a data enrichment strategy provides you with valuable data points to create customer profiles and establish fallback strategies for your SaaS marketing efforts.
Plus, leveraging customer data enables you to personalize your products and processes, which is crucial. Data enrichment empowers you to leverage a data-driven approach to understand your customers better, deliver customized communications, and automate marketing campaigns for improved outcomes.
- Feature Marketing
The success of a SaaS product hinges on its features, and with 70% of CIOs favoring scalable and agile solutions, regularly adding new features is essential.
With a robust feature marketing campaign, you can showcase these enhancements to retain existing loyal customers and attract new ones who are seeking such capabilities. Video marketing would be a great way to go here.
Take a cue from Zoom – by urging loyal customers to download the latest version for all the updates and features, Zoom ensures its effectiveness in promoting new offerings.
- Use of AI and ML for Hyper-Personalization
A whopping 87% of SaaS companies have experienced accelerated growth by implementing personalization techniques.
Leveraging AI and ML allows you to optimize product offerings, sales pitches, and marketing messages through the sales cycle for higher conversion rates while catering to your readers' preferences.
Innovative Examples of SaaS Product Marketing
Coda: Marketing to Solve the User’s Pain Point
Coda sets a stellar example of effective market positioning, with:
- Use of straightforward language that speaks directly to their target audience
- Making it easy to understand their tool's purpose – especially for those struggling with spreadsheets
- Letting readers fill in the blanks to establish market positioning the product as the hero
- Authenticity and relatability, which resonates with users on a deeper level
- A touch of humor to set them apart from others
Hubspot: Creating Helpful Gated Content for Lead Generation
Hubspot exemplifies the power of content marketing in providing valuable assistance to users with their highly optimized product tailored to their target audience's needs.
One of their tools, the 'Make My Persona' feature, offers an engaging and informative way to create buyer personas when data is limited. This tool:
- Educates users on the importance of personas and how to use them
- Also provides a step-by-step guide through a user-friendly form
- Captures emails by sending the personalized persona through email
- Delivers immediate value to users
- Generates high-quality leads
Stairwell: Use of Checklists to Drive Activation
Onboarding is an important part of SaaS marketing and in-app messaging offers various types to choose from.
Among them, checklists have proven to be highly effective in guiding users toward the activation point in their product adoption journey. Stairwell uses checklists to help users understand how their tool works – enabling them to fully experience its value.
Asana: Gamifying In-App Experiences
Asana provides a stellar example of in-app gamification.
Whenever a user completes a task in their project management tool, a cute and wholesome magical creature appears to congratulate them.
Not only does it make the user smile, but it also reinforces the habit of using the app by signaling success and achievement.
This fosters brand affinity, loyalty, and increased word-of-mouth marketing – since users are more likely to share their positive experiences with others.
Essential Reading for SaaS Product Marketing
- The Lean Startup by Eric Ries – It introduces exciting concepts enabling businesses to experiment, test, validate, and improve ideas.
- From Impossible to Inevitable by Aaron Ross and Jason Lemkin – This book is necessary for every startup to achieve hyper-growth as a SaaS founder and create predictable revenue streams.
- The Complete Guide to SaaS Product Marketing by Hubspot
- Product Marketing in the Age of Artificial Intelligence by Oracle
- A Step-by-Step Guide to SaaS Product Marketing by LeadQuizzes
- Blog posts from CXL and Growth Marketing Pro often also provide interesting insights into the world of product marketing.
Managing Director at Opdotcom and digital marketing expert Serbay Arda Ayzit suggests:
- The Essential Guide to SaaS Product Management and Marketing by Jennifer Hicks
- The Art of SaaS Marketing by Tien Tzuo and Gabe Weisert
- Marketing Strategies for the Cloud: How to Drive SaaS Adoption by Jen Miller
How Storylane Can Aid in Your Product Marketing Success
Showcasing your product's key features in action can be incredibly impactful to your product marketing process,
With Storylane, a user-friendly no-code interactive product demo software, you can easily create interactive and engaging demos by simply dragging and dropping visual elements.
Storylane empowers you to:
- Create a fully functional product demo in no time – it’s so easy that you can do it in almost 10 minutes!
- Replace manual sandbox environments with personalized product tours that give prospective customers a thorough look and feel of the product
- Create unique step-by-step flows where users can choose their own adventures, thereby gamifying the onboarding process