This is the third blog of a 4 part series that explains the SaaS Sales & Marketing Survival Checklist and gives you valuable advice on how to ensure that your SaaS business will not only survive, but be in a strong position to grow out of the current COVID-19 crisis.
If you’ve not downloaded the checklist, you can access it here
Other blogs in this series are:
SaaS Sales and Marketing Survival Checklist
How to Build an Audience While Everyone is Listening
COVID-19 has impacted the market place like nothing we have seen in our lifetimes. Well, that is unless you take a moment to reflect on the impact that the digital era brought along with its arrival.
Prior to this hyper-connected world, you had to attend trade shows, you needed to spend on advertising, and you had to do a lot of hard pushing to get your marketing message out to an audience that you knew limited details about. Tracking your return on marketing investment (ROMI) was difficult –if not impossible. Had a pandemic broken out, you would have been left with very limited options to grow and engage your audience. This would‘ve had a catastrophic impact on your business as your marketing funnels would go stale and your leads would dry up.
Thanks to digital marketing, however, we can respond to a pandemic proactively and tactfully by staying connected to our buyer personas and understanding the shifting needs of prospective customers.
While we all take the necessary measures to protect our health, our marketing efforts don't have to stop. SaaS businesses should be using this time to grow their audiences on social media platforms such as Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn, leveraging online forums, and generating new blog and newsletter subscribers.
Don't have a branded newsletter on the go? Then read this blog when you're finished here.
Why is now such a good time to be looking at your SaaS marketing strategy?
SaaS companies have an affinity for digital and inbound marketing. Embracing technologies such as Zoom and quickly adapting to changes in the digital environment is all part and parcel of the SaaS industry, meaning that connectivity between you and your customers is already inbuilt.
If we ask ourselves, “What have I been doing during this crisis?”, and list the things we did, I would wager that among the top five things you have done is go online and research. You’ve researched the pandemic, you’ve looked at business advice from the government and other trusted sources such as suppliers websites and blogs. You have been online trying to find answers to questions you never knew you had. If your usual sources have not had advice or articles that help you, where have you gone? A refereed source? A supplier’s competitor? Back to Google? You may have even clicked on Facebook ads that offered possible solutions to your query.
Your audience is no different they have just as many –if not more–questions that need answering. The fears that have very quickly come into fine focus are prompting them to scour the internet for support. This audience is open to forging new trust-based relationships, many of which will turn into profitable business relationships down the line, if not now.
How do you adapt your SaaS marketing strategy so that you can build new relationships?
Position yourself appropriately
It may seem like a bit of a no-brainer, but it is very easy to fall foul of bad positioning in times like these. In our first blog addressing the pandemic, our CEO spoke about two calls he had received that, on a normal day, may have been of interest. Yet, because of a tone-deaf approach resulted in swift and polite ends to those calls before a relationship could be established. You really do need to put yourself in your buyer’s shoes more than ever. Here are a few things you can do to ensure your positioning is going to start a relationship, not annoy people.
I don’t mean thought leadership; what I’m talking about right now is leadership in action. Just as you’ve been guiding and reassuring your teams through what has very likely been a stressful and novel experience for them. When people are scared, they look to their leaders – at home, on the field or in business – to give them confidence that things are going to be okay. Leaders offer a supportive tone and are open to hearing problems, providing advice freely and willingly.
Update your buyer personas
Don’t panic if you don't have any personas yet. If you're not familiar with buyer personas, allow me to give you the 101. A buyer persona is the semi-fictional persona of your ideal client, including their motivations, pains and concerns. Typically, these are built with research and a workshop to flesh them out. The insight in these buyer persona documents makes a huge difference to any inbound SaaS marketing campaign. Most companies have a good idea of who their target persona is, so if you don’t have one yet, download our guide for crafting your own personas.
When you craft or update your personas, you need to be asking questions that relate to them and their changing priorities as we go from lockdown to eventual bounceback.
Do they have new pains or motivations?
How will these change over the coming months, and what questions will they be asking?
If you're unsure where to get this information, speak to your services teams and sales teams. They offer you a great coalface view of what is bothering your audience at any given time. It’s why I sit next to our sales specialist, and within ear reach of our services team; I get daily insight into the questions people want us to answer for them.
Update your social schedule
Do you only post once per day about a service you provide, or to promote that blog about X ways you can achieve Y? Is that the right content to be promoting right now?
Your social media traditionally has a focus on your own content. You’re likely very proud of our experts and the tips and advice that they offer via your blogs. However, they are not experts on everything that has been happening in recent weeks. Yet, following on from your buyer persona review, you may find that you don’t have answers to some of their questions. If that’s the case, take it upon yourself to find and share the answers. Be a giver on social media and update your schedule to include this.
You also want to be transparent about your current situation. Are you operating at full service, are clients likely to meet delays, do you have paid services that you're making available for free? By communicating openly about any limitations, you can mitigate bad reactions to service delays.
Finally, make sure any pre-scheduled posts are checked for tone and relevance. You don’t want to commit a faux pas similar to Adidas after the Boston Marathon. People will call you out publicly, and it is a storm you do not want to deal with.
Update Paid Ads
Keep your paid adverts on Google, Facebook and other platforms running. Your audience is online, and due to the crisis, fewer advertisers are competing for their attention.. This drop off of advertisers is not a bad thing. Those that have pulled spend are either doing so because:
- No budget is available due to loss of incomes
- Business has closed for the duration
- They’ve turned off ads as a knee-jerk reaction
Don’t just ramp up your spend though – remember the importance of leadership, appropriate tone, and understanding of your buyers' current needs. Mathematics also come into play here; you need to ensure your paid ads investment generates a ROMI. If you have a piece of content or an offer that would really help your buyers at this time, that is what you should be promoting via your paid ads.
People keep talking about content being king, and they are right – as long as context is queen. Inbound marketing is built around providing compelling and useful content that will attract, engage and delight your audience. Just like your buyer persona checks, you need to ensure that your content strategy is aligned accordingly. Much of what you have already is likely usable. It might just need an update and a fresh tilt to give it contextual relevance for the now.
Things to consider are:
- Can you extend your introductory offer further (3 month trial over 1 month, for example)?
- Do you have low-cost services that could be made free?
- Do you need to gate all of your content?
- Have you checked your sales and marketing handover process?
The top two items in this list are something you need to make your own mind up about as a commercial business. If you do either of these points, they will have an impact on your business. You need to be prepared to offer these with the realisation that you are not going to recover any costs involved – unless you absolutely blow their minds whilst using your service. Our Head of Client Service Delivery covers this in an earlier blog you can find here.
Gating content is an interesting SaaS inbound marketing topic in itself. There are two main schools of thought:
The first school will tell you “gate everything; only your blogs should be free.”.This tactic works for some companies. I have run marketing departments where the content we produced was full of company IP and was only released once companies had been vetted to ensure a good fit.
The second, and in my personal opinion, the better school of thought, is that you should offer plenty of content for free. No emails, no data exchanges, completely and utterly free. This would typically be the content that you designated for the awareness stage of your buyer's journey. As prospects move through your marketing funnel and along their buyer journeys, you start gating the evaluation and decision stage content. Right now, I would suggest relaxing the gates in the evaluation stage, not all of your gates. You should keep those really juicy bits back for your lead nurturing activities.
You must look at your marketing to sales hand over process, too. Your sales team can be a major factor in promoting and supporting content to prospects in the marketing funnel. It will help them build their relationships now, so that by the time confidence in the marketplace is restored and buyers are more willing to part with their cash, you're top of the pile.
Explore new channels
You are not the only business that's wondering what the next best move is right now. Luckily, new windows of opportunity are continuously cropping up – even at this crazy time. If you can find a great new partner channel, or a way of working with your existing partners that was not an option before, go explore it. You should especially keep an eye on your industry press, new players will be entering the marketplace, and they might just be looking for a partner like you.
If you apply the above and ensure you have your business positioned right, leading your industry and keeping your online marketing channels open and informative, then you are going to attract a tonne of traffic to your website and grow an engaged audience. An audience that will be there to support you as you supported them when the time comes for The Big BounceBack!