Lead generation is the lifeblood of most SaaS businesses. And there’s no shortage of lead generation strategies out there being promoted as ways to grow your SaaS company.
The problem is, they don’t all help. In fact, some of them can actually harm your business. Not all leads are good for your business, so you need to focus on strategies that bring in the right kind of leads. Leads that will become best-fit customers.
Best-fit customers are the those who can get an immediate benefit from your product and will achieve their desired outcome in a relatively short period. The challenge for us marketers is that our leads cannot tell right away if they are best-fit customers or not. And a slick lead generation program can convert a lot of leads who are not actually best-fit customers. That can be a disaster for your business and lead to high customer church rate.
Churn rate, or churn for short is the percentage of subscribers who cancel or don't renew their subscriptions each year. Why is churn so important?
Because lead generation costs money up front to acquire new customers. If those customers don’t stick around long enough to pay back their cost of acquisition, then your SaaS business loses money on each one. Churn loses money and limits growth. Too much churn can even put you out of business.
So, the last thing you want is a lead generation strategy that seems to do well on the surface, but brings in customers that don’t stay subscribed for the long term. Instead, you want to implement lead generation strategies that reduce churn by attracting best-fit customers that stay with you month after month.
Here are 7 SaaS lead generation strategies that you can use to find best-fit customers.
Blogging is an excellent way to showcase your company’s expertise and experience within your industry. Not only does it attract prospective customers, but it also builds trust in your brand and rapport with your audience.
But make sure your blog is attracting the right audience. Writing about popular topics can generate lot of traffic, but if that traffic doesn’t include your best-fit customers, it won’t help you grow your business.
For example, don’t write about problems in your industry that your product can’t solve. Suppose your company sells an automated customer service chatbot. AI is a really hot topic, so you might think it’s a good idea to write about AI-powered chatbots revolutionizing customer service. But, truth-be-told, AI currently only works well in a few narrowly-defined customer service domains. If your best-fit customer doesn’t occupy a niche where AI is effective, then don’t blog about the wonders of AI. If you do, you are likely to sign up a bunch of customers who will be disappointed and leave because your chatbot’s AI features can’t solve their customer service problems.
On the other hand, you should blog about the problems that your product solves well. Ask your raving fan customers why they like your product. Listen carefully to their answers about what problems your product solves for them. Those are the best topics for your blog posts. Your posts should address those problems at a high level and not focus on your specific product, but on solutions in general. The goal is to educate your audience and become a trusted source of information.
Once you’ve identified the best topics to write about, remember to include a few calls to action with each post where readers can take the next step, learning more about the topic, and beginning a relationship with your brand. For SaaS companies, that next step might be a free trial. But, many will not be ready to buy anything yet. A free trial will be premature for them. They are just learning about the topic and not ready to evaluate or purchase a solution.
For this group, you should provide some content of additional value that they can download in exchange for contact information. This provides a low-risk way for them to begin a relationship with your brand.
Gated Content: White papers, Guides, Webinars
Gated content is online material, such as white papers, ebooks, videos, or webinars, that require users to provide contact information before they are given access. These materials are “gated” behind a form. The implicit transaction here is that the user agrees to allow your company to occasionally contact them via email in return for providing educational content of real value.
As with you blog, your gated content should cover topics that appeal to best-fit customers, but in more depth than a typical blog post. The content must provide value and demonstrate your company’s expertise. Your goal with gated content is to position your company as a trusted source of information about the problems that your product solves.
Gated content should not overtly sell your product. Provide detailed information, but leave your users free to draw their own conclusions.
If you do this well, your company will develop a reputation as an authoritative source of information, and many users will provide their contact information in exchange for your content. Use these contacts wisely. Based on what they downloaded, you know something about their interests. Occasionally send them information about new product features you think they will care about. Once in a while, provide them with case studies where your product is used to solve the problems you think they are facing.
Whatever you do, don’t spam them, and provide an unsubscribe option in every email.
When you reach out like this, your emails can include calls to action for a free trial, or product promotions. Give them an opportunity to take the next step without being pushy. That’s how you sign up best-fit customers and avoid churn.
Website Landing Pages for Vertical Markets
As a general rule of thumb, lead generation content is more effective when it is highly specific. It makes sense. The more directly you can address the specific concerns of a customer, the more likely they are to convert. One way to be more specific is to focus on a vertical market like software companies or law firms.
If your SaaS product has best-fit customers in multiple vertical markets, then you can focus on each of them by creating landing pages for each within your website. A typical approach is to have a “Solutions” menu item on your navigation that links to each vertical market landing page. For example, SaaS company PayStand provides a “Solutions” menu containing vertical markets such as “Solar & Energy”, “Software Platforms”, “Law Firms”, “Manufacturing”, etc.
But the real benefit of these landing pages is not that visitors find them from the home page. The real effectiveness is that they can act as industry-specific introductions to your product that visitors are referred to from multiple sources. These pages may receive organic traffic because they rank high for non-branded keywords that are industry specific (e.g., “payment solutions for law firms”). In addition, you can link to them (rather than a generic home page) from industry specific blog content. For example, if you are writing a blog post about improving accounts receivable at law firms, then when introducing your product, you would link to the landing page for law firms rather than the home page.
As you can see, the law firm landing page uses language targeted specifically to lawyers. It focuses on the administrative burden of client billing and collections - a major headache for many firms.
To avoid introducing churn, only create landing pages like this for vertical markets where you can find best-fit customers. The last thing you want is to convert a bunch of leads in a market where your product is not yet a good fit. Not only will that create damaging churn, but it can give your product a bad reputation in a particular market segment. Later, when you have added more features and you are ready to enter that market segment, you might find it hard to overcome the negative perceptions generated earlier.
Using AdWords to Drive Traffic to Your Landing Pages
You can’t mention landing pages as a SaaS lead generation strategy without also discussing AdWords. You can use AdWords with industry-specific keywords to drive qualified traffic to vertical market landing pages on your website. In addition, you can also use AdWords with one-off landing pages that are created for a specific campaign.
But, honestly, AdWords can be a mixed bag for SaaS companies. Many of the keywords that SaaS firms want to bid on are very expensive. AdWords can also bring you really bad (high churn) leads. But, if done right, this can be a highly targeted lead generation strategy that finds best-fit customers who aren’t reading your blog posts or finding your through organic search.
Rather than casting a wide net over broad, highly-competitive (and expensive) keywords, do careful keyword research to identify the long-tail keywords that can be effective in each of the vertical markets where you have best-fit customers. Try to use the kinds of words and phrases your best-fit customer’s use to describe their problems and make sure those keywords feature prominently on your landing pages.
Keywords that match your landing page help to increase your Adwords quality score and a high quality score can dramatically lower your cost-per-click. For more information on how to select and organize keywords, see our blog post: Best Practices for Structuring Ad Groups in Google AdWords.
Email Drip Campaigns
Once leads have entered your sales funnel by way of your gated content or landing pages, what happens next? For many SaaS companies, that’s where the process ends. Either they sign up for a free trial or they don’t.
But what if you could do more to maintain an ongoing relationship with leads who are not yet ready for a trial or purchase? That’s the goal of an email drip campaign: keeping leads engaged with your product until they are ready to make a purchase decision.
An email drip campaign, where you provide small chunks of valuable content via email over time (the “drip” part) can educate leads about product benefits specific to their industry. Done right, with helpful (rather than salesy) content, this approach builds trust in your brand and keeps your product top-of mind.
For example, suppose a visitor subscribes to your newsletter or weekly blog. A drip campaign could send out a welcome email with links to some of your most popular posts. Down the road, you might send them a case study about your SaaS product being used successfully in their industry. When they do start a free trial, begin another, onboarding, drip campaign focused on helping them to get value from your product. Links to “get started” content, especially videos, are great material for an onboarding drip campaign.
Live chat is a great way to connect with new leads. SaaS companies can install chat on pages that indicate product interest and prompt the visitor to engage by asking a context-specific question.
For example, suppose a visitor is lingering on page about invoicing on your accounting SaaS website. Here, you might pop open a chat window and ask “Do you have any questions about how our product supports invoicing?”. If the visitor engages, be sure to get their email, and be as helpful as possible. Just like that, you’ve just added a highly qualified lead to the funnel!
When staffed consistently, live chat can improve conversion rates considerably, sometimes by as much as 50%. And because everything happens via live conversation, there’s less of a need for sales staff to spend time following up on emails and playing phone tag with prospects.
The question then becomes, should you staff your chat with human agents, or can you save money with an automated, AI-based, bot system? In his article, Bots vs Humans, Paul Adams argues that bots are best for simple, low-level, repetitive questions and tasks. They can be useful when a visitor has a simple question and doesn’t want to get involved in a discussion with a person. As Paul writes, “Sometimes we don’t want to talk to a human – we just want a quick answer to a simple question.”.
But SaaS prospects often have high-level questions that cannot be answered by a bot. And, when generating leads, our goal is to create a connection with the prospect by being helpful. More often than not, this is a task for a human.
One good compromise is to have a bot prompt the visitor, and if the question goes beyond basic, get the email and connect them with a live representative. In many ways, this approach give you the best of both worlds. Bots handle the simple stuff and weed out visitors who are not seriously interested in your SaaS. But those who genuinely interested, and therefore willing to wait a few seconds to get connected with a live representative, get a helpful, customized, introduction to your company.
Influencer Marketing and Review Sites
Suppose your company sells a SaaS for accounting. Put yourself in the prospective customer’s shoes. How are they going decide to try your accounting product?
Many times, your prospect’s journey started with a search for “top saas accounting products”. Here are the organic results they see on Google when they enter that search.
A Google featured snippet, followed by a review website, a quora discussion, and a blog post about the “15 Best Accounting Systems”. It goes without saying that you need to be listed in those places. But, how can you get there? This content is written by other people with popular blogs or industry followings. Folks known as influencers. For a start, these influencers need to be aware of your product.
Luckily, SaaS influencers are not Hollywood celebrities or other really tough-to-reach people. They are founders, bloggers, VCs, and others who have built a reputation for creating great online content. All you need to do in order to get some coverage is have a decent product and then help these influencers learn about it.
A great way to start is with review sites like G2 Crowd or TrustRadius. Encourage your customers to write “raving fan” reviews on these sites. Your customers are actually your most effective influencers, if you can get them to speak up.
Once you start appearing in review sites, influencers will begin to notice you. You can help that process along by emailing the influencers who you’d like to have cover your SaaS product. Send them a link to your latest reviews, along with an invitation to talk about your company. The next time they are updating their list of “15 Best XYZ Systems”, you may get a call and find your product mentioned in that list.
The Best SaaS Lead Strategies for Your Business
Try out all of the above strategies. Some will work for you better than others. It’s hard to know in advance what’s going to click, so keep trying and experimenting. Eventually, you will hit on a small number of strategies that work really well for you.
But, no matter which SaaS lead generation strategies you choose, be sure to focus on your best-fit customers and watch out for churn. When you hit on the right approach, get a mention in a popular blog, or launch and AdWords campaign that signs up a ton of free trials, you need to be sure you are gathering leads that can become long-term customers.
Making sure you attract the right leads is all about creating content that is honest, open, and appealing to those prospects you are sure can become best-fit customers. Remember not to promote weak features, or create compelling content for audiences that won’t get immediate benefit from your product.
Plan for success. You will eventually hit on lead generation strategies that work. Be smart about it so that you end up on-boarding customers that help you build your business.