A brief guide to Software as a Service marketing

This article is reproduced from Saasburst, a Deskaway blog, with permission from the author, Sahil Parikh.

 

Bessemer’s Top 10 Laws for Being “SaaS-y” Rule # 8 states “By definition, your sales prospects are online – Savvy online marketing is a core competence (sometimes the only one) of every successful SaaS business. “

(BTW, read the other laws as well – we will have another post on interpreting the other laws soon)

SaaS vendors should utilize low-cost marketing techniques to gain market traction and increase user adoption. While old-school software had marketing budgets of millions of $’s and sold by downloads or via CD’s, selling SaaS requires an understanding of the web, user behavior and implementing some cool techniques and methods. Follow these methods and you will golden.

Search Engine Marketing (SEM)

1. Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
SEO is one of the most in-expensive ways to push prospects to your site. Prospects search for keywords related to your service, your site popups up on the SERPS (search enging results page), they click on your link and ka-ching, you have a lead. It sounds easy (doesn’t everything now adays) but there are 2 things you need to do:
a. make sure your website is optimized (keywords, content, title tags, alt tags, etc.)
b. other highly ranked websites (with a Google PageRank of 4 or more) link to you. The more quality sites that link to you the more “brownie” points you get from search engines.

Further reading - http://www.highrankings.com/tentips

2. Pay Per Click (PPC)
PPC is where you pay a small amount when someone clicks on your ad on a search engine is paid search. I have personally liked the Google Adwords. You bid on keywords (the one you used on your site) and then have your site show up on the right side of the Google SERPs. Make sure you try this service out with a small budget and a few keywords. Though this method can be expensive for certain keywords (especially if you are competing with everyone around the world), you can get some really inexpensive keywords for each individual geographic location. e.g. certain project collaboration keywords are much more inexpensive in India than N. America

Blog Marketing
Find articles that talk about your service (or complementary services) through Google Alerts and Technorati and then contact those bloggers for a review. Comment on these articles – comments need to be contextual, brief and not spammy.

I have tried a few paid blog marketing techniques from reviewme.com,payperpost.com and blogvertise.com but they haven’t lived up to their expectations.

Email Marketing/ Campaigns
Build your newsletter lists (from website visitors, customers, prospects and anyone you come in contact with) and have an email newsletter go out to them every month. Measure and track open rates, bounces, unsubscribes, forwards etc. This is one of the best ways to keep in touch and let people know about whats going on with your company and service (feature launches, customer testimonials, casestudies..).

Further Reading
Seth Godins Permission Marketing
Writing an effective newsletter

Affiliate Programs
Create and promote an attractive affiliate program(s) that provide a win-win to both the vendor (you) and the affiliate with excellent recurring commissions. The brick and mortar industries did this with their distributors networks. Affiliates are one of the best ways to grow your business while you sleep at night. Two of the good affiliate networks that I have checked out and heard of are:

Commission Junction
Share A Sale

I have heard thats its better to create an in-house affiliate network and create a direct relationship with your affiliates. We would love to hear your comments/ views on In-house affiliate Vs. Existing Networks.

Channel Partners/ Marketplaces
Over the last year or so I have noticed marketplaces (think a Mall) open up for SaaS vendors (think a boutique shop). Two of the marketplaces I have checked out are Jamcracker and Etelos. Channels are a good way to build recurring revenue (same as affiliates). Channels bring in customers to their marketplace where the customer can signup for multiple SaaS services. If any of you have experience running a Channel program, please post your comment & thoughts.

Further Reading
ChannelWeb

Social Networks
Get yours fans talking about you on Facebook (create a Fan page) and send out sneak previews, discount coupons etc. through Twitter. You can even track who is talking about you on Twitter – great way to build relationships and solve customer service questions.

PR
It helps build credibility if you can get some good stories written up on you or your service in an offline media publications.

Free Trials
Giving a free trial to your prospects so that they can experience your software and customer service is fundamental to any SaaS initiative. Free trials are low-risk, inexpensive and helps the above sales efforts to become more effective.

We will be going in-depth into most of these points. Remember, everything that happens on the web can be measured, tweaked and re-measured. Now, all you need is an analytic tool (my choice is Google Analytics) to measure and track your success. Good luck!

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