To make your SaaS business successful, you need your customers to see you as a partner, not just another vendor. Here’s how to differentiate your software-as-a-service business to attract new prospects and be sticky for existing clients.
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The Biggest Mistake a SaaS Business Makes
Very often, a SaaS business simply pushes to make a sale and then says “here’s your login.” Sadly, the next time they contact the customer is renewal time. Bad move.
Once you hand a client the keys to your software, they’ve just started a new journey with you. They’ve taken that step to part with their money and invest in your business. They’re expecting your product to solve a problem they have.
The successful SaaS business will be the customer’s guide, advisor, partner and guru.
If you want that customer for life, you have to act like you’re married to them. That means give them lots of love and attention.
Also read our SaaS Marketing Plan Template for ideas to build a multi-million dollar SaaS business.
Increase Customer Touch Points
How do you make your SaaS business so sticky that clients don’t want to leave? Do everything possible to help your customer succeed using your product – and show them you have their best interest at heart!
Aside from having an amazing product, one of the best ways to differentiate yourself is by increasing your touch points. Put yourself in the customer’s mind. What would you want out of a product that you’re paying for every month?
I’ve built three SaaS businesses and sold two of them to publicly traded companies and one to a private firm. My team’s goal every time was to make our service sticky to the point that subscribers became raving fans. We did this by adding several touch points throughout the customer journey, both before and after they signed up.
Below are some things that worked for us. We repurposed almost all of our content to produce it for various media, including blogs, social media, videos, webinars and more.
The messaging breaks down into two types: 1) customer solutions using our products and 2) industry education or thought leadership.
Messaging for Your SaaS Business Solutions
Personalized onboarding training for higher priced products
For clients who pay a lot, your SaaS business should give them the red carpet treatment from day one. This means a high touch onboarding experience. Personalize your onboarding session with examples tailored to each client so they can see how to be successful using your product. Record the session using a tool like GoToMeeting, join.me or zoom.us. Share it with the client so they can watch it anytime in the future, including when they have a staff change.
When your SaaS business sells a lower cost product, a high-touch onboarding process won’t make sense. So, you’ll need to make sure that your product includes intuitive designs, buttons and informative text to make it easier to use. For example, one of my companies provided email marketing software which allowed customers to upload their lists. By providing numerous file format options, we made it easier for clients to use the service without requiring human support. Investing in an affordable flatfile alternative to allow customers to upload their information into your SaaS business product will make their lives easier, which improves your onboarding experience.
Welcome Email Series
When it’s not financially feasible to host a personalized onboarding session for a new client, send them an automated email series. This provides an excellent way to get them up and running without lots of hand holding. In these emails, introduce them to common features and how to use them. Also, include several examples of how customers use your tool to solve problems. This helps clients see how your product can fit into their life in ways they may not have imagined.
Related to your welcome email message, send your clients a welcome packet. You can do this by email, but consider sending a package by postal mail if it makes sense financially for your business model.
Very few companies do this. So, if you do it, your SaaS business will stand out and be memorable. Read our popular guide on 5 items to include in your welcome packet for ideas to create yours.
Deep Knowledge Base
You’ve probably already had many customers send in questions about your SaaS business products. There’s so much more that you can do with your knowledge base. Add all kinds of topics related to the industry, including definitions of terms, and how to’s. Many of our questions/answers that started with “What is a …” got highly ranked on Google because they informed readers about the subject matter. If you have deeper content, such as guides or videos, link to those from your knowledge base.
Quick Start Video
Some customers just want to get up and moving fast. Create a 10 minute introductory video on how to use your product’s most common features. Portions of this can be extracted from your welcome email series.
You can create your video quickly using a service like Wideo to make your marketing and other videos quickly.
Tutorial Videos on Your SaaS Business
Another important set of videos are quick 2–3 minute tutorials. These illustrate how to do many of the tasks in your knowledge base. Embed links to appropriate videos throughout your SaaS product so customers can see how to do what they want to do.
Messaging for Thought Leadership
Thought leadership is critical. Customers want to work with leaders. When you publish rich, useful material that customers find helpful in increasing their knowledge, they will keep coming back to you. Incorporating keyword discovery and other content creation techniques into your SaaS marketing practices can help you become a thought leader.
In our case, we would attend email design conferences and write several blogs about design trends. We then made tweaks to our SaaS product’s email templates based on what we learned at the conferences. Doing so allowed us to write about those improvements in future blogs. We only wrote a blog about once a month, maybe twice. Yet it consistently got 400–500 views per day from highly qualified individuals. We included trial signup forms on the blog to get new accounts.
Industry Trends Report
When you talk about industry trends, look into your product’s usage to see if there is something you can publicize about aggregate information that others would find useful. Ours was one of the first Email Marketing Metrics reports on the market. It ranked #1 or #2 on Google practically from the day it was released because so many companies linked to it. Publish a report like this regularly and you will generate many inbound links to your site, making your SEO skyrocket.
Reports like this can generate a lot of free positive publicity, too. Ours was picked up by the Data and Marketing Association (formerly the Direct Marketing Association) and many other publications. When your clients see your SaaS business mentioned in leading publications, they’ll feel even better that they selected you.
Host regular webinars on the industry topics you write about. This includes your trends reports, case studies, and ways to solve particular business problems. Webinars with valuable content are usually well-attended, not just by your customers but also by people using competing products. While you may see a 30-40% attendance rate compared to the number of registrants, you will get an increase in webinar views when you send the recording of your event. Make sure the content was no fluff and always offer a free giveaway as a bonus for attending.
Webinars can be a great way to drive sales, too. Use EasyWebinar to automate your entire webinar process. We love using this webinar tool and recommend it highly. It simulates a live webinar by using a prerecorded video, manages all of the registrations, and sends reminder emails and follow-ups. It’s an ideal way to reach more people without adding to your time or workload. Many companies often see a quick return on investment when adding webinars to their marketing efforts.
Business Tips Videos
While tutorial videos are important, also create videos that are packed with business tips that show users how to leverage your product to generate more sales. Customers love these. Each video should be about 3–5 minutes long and include a specific tip. Example: how to use a loss leader to get more consulting business. So, rather than just having a SaaS business tool, they have a partner in you. It will make them feel like have a trusted advisor, someone that provides a lot of consulting advice at no additional charge.
There seem to be fewer infographics today than there were a few years ago. That said, one of our most popular pieces was an illustration on the personal habits of IT professionals (one of our target markets). We took a survey on how many cups of coffee people drank, what time they got to the office, did they go out for lunch, and so on.
Then, we made one big infographic with all of the results and 12 smaller ones for each main point. To create a series around this topic, we wrote 12 accompanying blogs and then one main one that talked about the points in the infographics. This series got picked up by many industry publications and other bloggers.
Our favorite tool for creating graphics quickly is Canva. It allows us to create infographics, blog post feature images, ads, and all sorts of other graphics. The best part: we don’t need to hire a designer. We can create professional-looking graphics in about 3-4 minutes.
Be a SaaS Business Partner, Not Just a Vendor
As you can see, there’s no single thing that will help you differentiate your SaaS business. It’s a series of many things done consistently that make your customer see you as their partner and not just another vendor that can be replaced.
Raj Khera, Publisher of MoreBusiness.com and past 3x CEO/CMO