The ability to generate leads is the lifeblood of your SaaS business.
However, with more and more businesses vying for the attention of your target market with increasing sophistication, B2B SaaS marketers need to pay more attention to lead generation.
We’re going to walk you through every element of an effective lead generation strategy and enable you to transform your marketing funnel into a well-oiled machine.
What is SaaS lead generation?
Let’s start from the beginning—what do we mean by SaaS lead generation?
In simple terms, it's the action that SaaS companies take in order to build a list of people or organisations interested in their software. The list could take a form of an email list, a social media audience or a telephone list of sales leads that are ready for a call
They might not be ready to buy now, but the lead you generate maybe looking for a SaaS solution somethime in the near future. There are many tactics you can use to generate leads, but all of them fall into one of two categories:
- Inbound marketing
- Outbound marketing
Examples of Inbound Marketing
Examples of Outbound Marketing
Search Engine Optimisations (SEO)
Social media community engagement
TV and radio ads
Content marketing, including blogging and eBooks
Online display advertising
Hosting events / public speaking
With outbound marketing, generating leads is about you pushing your software in front of people; you interrupt their day with your messaging. With inbound, SaaS companies use content marketing to bring people to their website and generate leads through information they find valuable.
Inbound versus outbound for B2B
“I believe most marketers today spend 90% of their efforts on outbound marketing and 10% on inbound marketing, and I advocate that those ratios flip.”
- Brian Halligan, HubSpot CEO and co-founder.
As an inbound marketing agency and HubSpot Platinum agency partner, you’ll be unsurprised we’re strong advocates of using inbound marketing to generate leads.
While outbound marketing tactics are often expensive, inbound leads cost 61% less to acquire. It’s not only cost where inbound lead generation strategies trump outbound either.
An outbound marketing strategy only generates new business when you reach people ready to buy. Whereas using inbound marketing and creating content your target market will find valuable, a SaaS company is able to acquire many more qualified leads and potential customers. You only have to nurture them.
This isn’t to say that outbound marketing doesn’t have its place for SaaS companies to generate effective leads.
You still want to target businesses that are ready to buy right now, but by limiting your marketing you’re missing out on a huge number of low-cost leads. Only 2% of search traffic actually converts into a sale, which means a massive 98% of people are still researching the causes of their challenges and evaluating solutions. Can you afford to miss out on that opportunity?
Before you do anything, work out your buyer personas!
If you’ve already worked them out, you can merrily skip over this section. If not, we can’t stress enough how important it is for you to do this before you start work on anything else.
A buyer persona is a semi-fictional representation of your ideal customer, based on a combination of market research and what you know about your existing customers.
As a b2b SaaS marketer, everything you do as part of your marketing should be focused on these targets, without exception.
What information should be in a buyer persona?
- Demographic information — age, gender, typical salary, where do they live?
- Job role/title
- How is their job measured — for example, it could be leads or revenue generated or team productivity.
- Who do they report to, and who reports into them?
- What industry do they work in?
- What are their main responsibilities?
- What are their goals, and what do they search for online to help achieve these goals?
- What are their main challenges, and what do they search for online to help overcome them?
- Their main pain points - What keeps them up at night?
These are just some of the identifiers you need to think about when defining your buyer personas.
This subject warrants an eBook all on its own and, fortunately, we’ve got you covered. Check out our Ultimate Guide to Creating Buyer Personas for a detailed explanation on this essential element of your lead generation strategies.
Building a SaaS content marketing campaign that generates leads
An effective SaaS campaign targets your buyer persona at every stage of the buyer’s journey. Whether they don’t even know the cause of their problems, or are primed to buy, you should have content that appeals to them.
How a website visitor becomes a lead
Let’s take a look at how, in simple terms, a website visitor becomes a lead.
STEP 1: Get them to your website
First of all, you have to get the person onto your website. This might be through a search engine giving an organic search result for a relevant keyword, a social media post or ad, or a Google adwords campaign. Regardless, the aim is to make sure they land on a webpage that matches their search intent, or the expectations set by the ad.
STEP 2: Encourage them to take an action
It doesn’t matter how great your website content is, you’re going to find it hard to generate leads without compelling calls-to-action (CTAs). These CTAs should must relate to the content of the webpage and offer further value.
Whether it’s a link to a landing page to download a gated content offer, newsletter sign-up or simple get in touch form, your CTAs should outline the benefit of taking that action.
(FYI, that’s a call-to-action, right there. No, there ^^^. Albeit a selfless one, as we’re linking off to a third-party. We’re nice like that.)
STEP 3: Convert users to become a lead
Unless your CTA is a lead capture in itself your CTA will need to divert visitors to a landing page.
This is a web page that goes into more detail about what it is you’re offering. While the CTA is just the headline value, on the page you can go into as much detail as is appropriate. This page is where your lead capture form will live.
So, you get a user onto your website, offer clear value and provide a means for that user to give you their contact details in exchange. Sounds simple, right?
But don’t worry, we’re going to walk you through how to get started.
Your lead magnet
You’re not going to create leads unless you have a strong lead magnet. So how do you work out what that lead magnet should be? This is where your persona work from earlier comes in.
The best lead magnets address their core challenges; the biggest problems affecting them on a regular basis. Once you’ve identified what those pain points are you can work out what they need to overcome them.
Maybe it’s an eBook going into detail around a particular subject your persona wants to understand, a working document they can use to solve a problem, or an asset they can white–label and use within their own business.
The landing page
The majority of lead magnets require a lead capture page of some sort; a place for the form to live, as well as a clear but concise explanation of the value on offer.
Check out these 12 great landing page examples for some inspiration.
Pro Tip #1: Add a thank you page
Once they've filled out the form, Don’t leave your new lead hanging on the page with a simple ‘Thanks for filling in the form’ message. Take the opportunity to propose a secondary action for them to take via a thank you page. A well crafted thank you page can solidify your relationship with them a little bit more.
This might be subscribing to the newsletter or downloading a related lead magnet. You can also to set their expectations in relation to the lead magnet they’ve downloaded, for example keeping an eye on their email inbox.
Pro Tip #2: Don’t let them leave
That sounds a little more threatening than is intended, but one thing we do with all our landing pages is remove the main website navigation. If we get a user onto a landing page, we only want them to do one thing—complete the form. Don’t let them get away!
Promoting the lead magnet
It’s not enough to build your lead magnet and hope people will come across it on the search engines —you need to actively promote it.
A search engine will not routinely crawl the download and therefore relying upon organic traffic to the magnet isn't going to be effective.
Website CTAs are a start and will help to funnel traffic from other web pages that attract users already, but it’s only a start.
- Blog posts — create blog content that is related to the lead magnet. A blog is a great way to make your site known to the search engines and should form the main tenant of your lead generation strategies.
You should include CTAs on your blog posts, but we’d recommend also retargeting these blog visitors with paid media.
Social media and Google Display ads can be served to anyone reading a related blog that didn’t go on to download the lead magnet.
- Social media content — publish content to your social media channels promoting the lead magnet to your fan base. Organic social media click-through rates have been in steady decline for some time, but it’s still worth doing—after all, it’s a free channel.
- Social ads — by identifying where your buyer personas are likely to spend their time, you will be able to select the most appropriate social media platform. For B2B lead generation LinkedIn will often be your best bet. It can be quite expensive in comparison to Facebook, but the job/industry-based targeting is much stronger.
One strategy we use is to promote blog content on the lower cost Facebook, and then retargeting to a warm audience via LinkedIn.
4. Email marketing — created a shiny new lead magnet? Promote it via an email blast to your existing database. Many SaaS companies will use tools like Hubspot or Mailchimp in order to push a lead down the sales funnel. The value of this will depend on which stage of the buyer’s journey the content is pitched at.
An Awareness stage eBook won’t do much to push your existing leads towards becoming customers, but a Decision stage tool—like our free, two-minute marketing assessment—might help to identify leads that are ready to hear from a sales rep.
5. Google Ads (Search Network) — this channel isn’t right for every type of lead magnet, but for decision stage content it can be the perfect medium.
Users searching on Google for specific solutions are at the bottom of the funnel. There’s a good chance they’re ready to buy right now, or at least at the point where they need one small, final push.
Your free trial offer is a good candidate for a Google Ads Search Network campaign, as would a free demo or consultation.
6. Google Adwords (Display Network) — the Google Display Network (GDN) can be used at every stage of the buyer’s journey. Like with social ads, you target prospects based on interests, as well as specific websites that you know your personas frequent.
We mentioned remarketing above in regards to social ads, but it’s worth reiterating how important it is to follow up with your newly created leads.
Do not put in place any marketing collateral or campaign without planning what happens next. Once a user has downloaded something, what do they receive? What are you trying to get them to do next? It’s a buyer journey, and it’s now your job to guide them along that journey.
Your lead capture forms should always require an email address, more so than any other piece of data.
After completing a lead capture form—whether for an Awareness eBook, Consideration worksheet or free trial request—the prospect should receive an email containing the content offer or providing instructions on what they need to do.
Your email communications with the prospect shouldn’t end here.
What’s the next stage in the journey? This depends on which stage they entered in the first place.
If they downloaded an Awareness eBook, they’re not ready to hear from a salesperson, but this is where your Consideration stage content comes in. You’ve explained to them what’s causing their problem(s), now you need to show how your software solution can solve them.
When a prospect enters the funnel at a later stage, you need to make a call on whether a salesperson should get in touch, or whether they need to be nurtured further.
Having to make decisions every time a prospect interacts with your content will be tough if you’re getting a high volume of leads. So, how can we automate this process?
What is lead scoring?
Lead score measures the quality of a lead on a predefined scale. It is a combination of the specific actions a lead has taken (for example, downloaded a content offer, or visited a particular web page) and the characteristics of that lead.
This score is then used to learn the suitability of the lead, and informs whether they are ready to hear from the sales team.
Why should you worry about lead scoring
Ultimately, you only want your sales team working on qualified leads. Those who are closer to the end of the buyers journey. Ask any salesperson what they would like with respect to generating leads and I guarantee you that they'll want leads that are highly scored and more ready to buy.
An example of lead scoring
To give you an idea of how lead scoring might work for a SaaS organisation, let’s look at a pretend example:
Ace Accountants 123 offer bookkeeping and accounting software to sole traders and small businesses.
They have built a few different content assets:
- An eBook titled ‘The 5 Biggest Financial Mistakes Small Businesses Make in the First 5 Years’ (Awareness).
- A recorded webinar featuring three of AA123’s software users discussing accounting challenges for sole traders and small businesses (Consideration)
- A 3-month trial of the software (Decision).
They also blog regularly, while their website provides clear information on the software offering.
There are a number of potential actions a visitor to AA123’s website could take, so they need to decide at what point a lead should be contacted by a sales rep.
To achieve this, they assign points to each action, while they set a target of 50 points.
Low intent actions:
- Subscribe to the blog: 5 points
- Visit a blog page: 2 points
- Visit a non-decision focused web page: 2 points
These low intent actions should be recorded and scored, but it would need the user to read a lot of blog posts before a sales rep gets in touch. Even then, the decision might be that they aren't contacted until they take a higher intent action.
Medium intent actions:
- Download the Awareness stage eBook: 15 points
- Download the webinar: 25 points
- View the pricing page: 10 points
On their own these actions won’t hit the 50 point target, but through a combination of email nurturing and ad retargeting, it should be achievable. If a lead isn’t engaging with your nurturing or retargeting efforts, then it’s likely they weren’t a good fit in the first place.
High intent actions
- Signed up to a trial: 50 points
- Made an enquiry via the contact form: 40 points
- Got in touch via the website’s live chat/chatbot: 40 points
The prospect is demonstrating a strong interest in your SaaS offering. Free trialists should always be contacted by a sales rep (you’ll have to decide at which stage of the free trial), while online enquiries should be given plenty of weight, albeit taking into account the nature of the enquiry.
Conversion rate optimisation (CRO)
Once you have your lead generation engine working to full effect, you can sit back and watch them roll in, right? Wrong!
You should constantly analyse and optimise your campaigns, looking for ways to improve click-through rates (CTRs) and conversion rates at every stage.
Ultimately generating leads is the goal of all your optimisation processes and you should see how your tests impact on this important metric.
A/B and multivariate testing
You should always test your campaign assets with the aim of improving click-through and conversion rates.
A/B testing involves experimenting with one element of the asset/page. For example, the headline of a landing page, length of a form or imagery used in a display ad. Note that A/B testing requires a higher number of impressions/views. Otherwise, you won’t be collecting enough data to make an informed decision.
Multivariate testing involves testing many elements of an asset/page at once. Although this doesn’t identify which change caused the impact, it does allow you to make quicker decisions when there is less data.
What you should be testing
Run split tests with the copy, imagery and targeting. If you’ve tried multiple creative, and you can see you’re getting impressions but no clicks, look at who you’re trying to reach. Are they the appropriate audience for your offering? If so, then perhaps it’s the offer itself that needs work.
Avoid changing button colour, unless it’s receiving thousands of views per month and you can make fast decisions.
Experiment instead with copy, size and positioning on the web page to try and maximise CTR.
A good benchmark for landing pages across all industries is 20%, but this is likely to depend on the nature of the offer and how clear the benefit is.
Always run two versions of your landing pages, sending 50% of traffic to each one. Once you have a clear winner, create a new version and test that against the champion variant.
Check out and bookmark Dr Peter Meyer’s split test calculator for determining when a test has reached statistical significance (assuming your platform doesn’t do that for you).
Achieving strong open and click-through rates with email marketing is a big challenge, which is why you need to be testing your email content.
Try out different subject lines and lengths of email, as well as changing up what you’re actually offering. Are leads engaging with the first three emails you send, but then dropping off from email four? If so, move the higher value action (for example, downloading another content offer or requesting a free trial) up to the first three emails.
You can also test the number of days you leave between emails and the day/time of day you send them.
If you’ve been paying attention, you’ll be unsurprised that we’ve got a few options for you:
- Download this guide as a PDF so you can access it offline, share it with your colleagues or, if you’re feeling old school, print it out.
- Check out our eBook, ‘The SaaS Lead Generation Blueprint’. This free resource explains how you can generate a lead generation strategy for your business in three simple steps..
- If you’re done reading and want to get started on growing your SaaS business, book a call with Ellie below: