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Best Strategies for Selling SaaS in 2022

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Best Strategies for Selling SaaS in 2022


Propelled by the increase in demand for cloud-based services over the previous two years, Software as a Service, or SaaS for short, remains one of the most competitive markets in 2022.

If done right, SaaS solutions can be used to attract more customers, increase sales and revenue, as well as bolster long-term business growth. That is why the process of effectively marketing and selling SaaS products is crucial to the success of any SaaS enterprise.

Before we get into some of the tried-and-true strategies on selling SaaS services, let’s go over the basics.

How Does Selling SaaS Work?

The main benefit of the SaaS model is that the end-user is not required to download or install any programs (app counterparts notwithstanding) in order to use the service. They simply pay the indicated price and gain access to it immediately.

A typical SaaS product is managed by a team of customer experience professionals and supported by the SaaS provider’s engineers. The pricing model is normally subscription-based, which is why your focus should be on promoting higher-end iterations of your service (upselling), as well as retaining existing customers while simultaneously seeking out new ones.

To summarize, we can see that SaaS marketing boils down to the following 3 stages:

  1.  Acquisition: finding (new) customers
  2.  Conversion: getting your customers to buy your product and become subscribers
  3.  Retention: retaining those subscribers so that they keep paying for your product

Rather than merely closing a deal and moving on to the next lead, selling your SaaS products effectively entails asking customers to continue purchasing them on a monthly or annual basis.

It’s a win-win situation: instead of the clients spending hundreds of dollars on a product package that will be obsolete next year, they can get the latest version with ongoing maintenance for a much cheaper monthly charge. In exchange, SaaS businesses have a steady stream of revenue.

However, as SaaS has grown in popularity, so has the competition, and clients are able to switch from one service to another at any moment. Therefore, if you want to increase your SaaS sales, you must properly show the long-term value of your service, communicate your latest product changes and explain why it is the best option on the market.

Because marketing and selling your SaaS product is competitive and complex, provide your team with a SaaS dashboard of comprehensive business metrics so that everyone knows the status of sales and marketing at any given time. Much of SaaS success depends on making progress swiftly, so a single source of valid information is an essential management tool.  

Tailor Your Lead Generation Strategy to Your Niche

There are as many different strategies to generate leads for your business as there are SaaS products. That is why you will always need to tailor your lead generation methods according to your niche.

One of the biggest differences is whether you’re marketing to consumers (also known as end users) or other businesses. B2C prospects make their own purchasing decisions and are usually in a position to commit as soon as they’re convinced; however, they’re skeptical and may require a free trial before they feel comfortable providing payments or personal information. B2B SaaS marketing targets prospects who typically share decisions among colleagues (although sometimes it’s not clear who has authority to make the final decision). They have to request or negotiate the budget and may need detailed technical information to ensure compatibility with their existing systems or security protocols.

Generally, consumer niches provide faster sales but prefer lower prices, while business niches require a longer sales process but can be more lucrative.

So, tailor your strategy to your niche; however, be aware of these relatively universal lead generation approaches that you can adapt to many different types of markets.

Search Engine Optimization

Search engines remain major drivers of leads for many SaaS businesses. To stay on top of your SEO game, always keep an eye on your rankings to detect keywords which bring about high volumes of traffic, but also focus on putting out quality content to drive the right kind of traffic which turns into qualified leads that are ready to become buyers.

Content Marketing

Similarly to what is stated above, the content you publish for the purposes of promoting your SaaS solution should match the needs and interests of potential customers. You can achieve this by mapping along their customer journey. Does your content include the kind of information that prospective buyers are looking for when they set out to find a product or service like yours? To obtain organic traffic and leads, you should be blogging and posting on social media on a regular basis about topics that are important to your target audience.

Landing Pages and Ads

Perhaps the most obvious one, landing pages and ads, often perform well when it comes to lead generation. Although somewhat on the expensive side, a well-designed Google Ads or similar marketing campaign combined with an optimized landing page can be a winning combo when it comes to generating leads.

Specialty Marketing

Some niches or sub-niches achieve success using narrow marketing channels. For example, if your SaaS product targets train or bus riders, then you might reach them using a combination of location analytics that tell you when the terminal is full, and closed network video advertising that plays your ad on display boards when there are more than 100 people present. Or if you target the higher education fundraising market, you might learn that their SaaS solutions must incorporate telephone calling components, so automated phone calling to help market your solution could make sense.

Tell a Story with Your Product

Product storytelling plays a huge part in how well you position your SaaS solution on the market, which consequently impacts the success of your sales. Great stories garner greater attention, and it takes marvelous storytelling to stand out, strike a chord with your audience and incentivize them to become buyers.

Apart from offering a SaaS product that addresses the needs of your niche (be it B2C or B2B), try to craft a memorable marketing and sales narrative in relation to your product.

Then, when your salespeople contact the leads your storytelling develops, find out how to tailor your sales pitch to them individually using AI solutions such as Crystal, which provides you with insights about the behavioral traits and preferences of each person your sales team contacts. Together with great storytelling, this two-step approach can speed up the process of selling and help you achieve better results.  

To get a better understanding of what your outreach strategy should be, think about the following things:

  • The emotions you want to evoke from your audience. Do you want them to feel motivated, empowered, understood, or simply happy when reading about the story behind your product? Provide enough information to support those emotions.
  • Making your story relatable and genuine. You are selling a product to real people with diverse (but hopefully common) interests. What ties them together and how does your solution address those interests? Be clear about what your purpose is and communicate it with passion, as people always gravitate more towards genuine and inspiring narratives.
  • Stories about people. At its core, your story is always about someone. For example, explain the benefits of your service through the eyes of a user. Or, think about the unsung heroes at your company—the folks with interesting positions who don’t usually communicate with the general public, and tell their stories as well.

Free Trials and Freemiums

Here are some oldies, but goldies.

Free Trials

If you are looking to lock in prospective buyers, offer a free trial for a fixed time period (e.g. 30 days). A free trial accomplishes the goal of getting people to demo your SaaS product or service because they can do it for free. Generally, some type of core functionality that delivers massive benefits is not included in the free plan but in the ‘freemium’ version.

Freemium

The freemium model is a twist on the free trial. It allows limited access to the entire suite of premium tools. The idea behind this strategy is that, for the general population, upgrading to a paid premium subscription is necessary to maximize the benefits that the tool brings to the table. It essentially acts as an incentive to upgrade to the highest level of subscription.

If you are launching a new product and want to demonstrate its uses to as many people as possible, it would be clever not to require credit card information to gain access to the trial version. However, do ask your customers to leave their email and some basic information so you could build your lead database.

Different Payment Plans for Different Customers

Remember to think about diversifying your subscription plans to target different kinds of customers and maximize your audience reach.

For example, if you’re marketing your SaaS product to consumers (B2C), you might want to appeal to them based on typical income ranges, profession, or some combination of the above. Let’s say your SaaS product has an app that helps independent service people who work from their vehicles (not from an office) measure how much time and fuel they spend on various parts of their job.

To find the right parts of your market, you’ll want to search for average salaries earned by these consumers. You might learn that grocery delivery people make too little to afford a SaaS subscription at your “main” price, but a HVAC technician’s salary is enough to make them a good prospect. So, you offer a bare-bones version of your product at just a few dollars for grocery deliverers, but a full version for HVAC and similar technicians at a mainstream price.

If you’re marketing your SaaS product to businesses (B2B), you might want to base your pricing on the number of users. So, a company with just a few users might pay the full $59/month per person for a subscription, but if the company buys subscriptions for hundreds of its employees, you could drop the price to $39 per person. If they have thousands of employees who subscribe, you could drop the price to just $20 per person  – everybody wins.  

Keep an Eye on Competition

Although not a sales strategy per se, it goes without saying that the success of your business will partly depend on whatever field you are looking to position yourself in as a SaaS provider.

Whether you are offering a new product in an established market (e.g. you’re starting an online course platform), or pioneering a new niche, it is helpful to look at what other, similar companies already have on offer, and even check out what their customers are saying about them.

Points to Think About

Is there an element of your competitor’s SaaS product that their customers are not happy with, e.g. the product dashboard or subscription options? Could you add or improve this element in your own service, then market it by specifically emphasizing this improved feature?

Is there something your competitors are doing better than you that might appeal to your own customers and drive new ones to buy your product?

Healthy competition is knowing what your competitors are doing and using that to advance your own business. Aside from letting you stay ahead of the curve, this strategy drives lead generation by capturing the attention of customers who may just be on the lookout for a new or different SaaS provider.

Conclusion

SaaS has always required businesses to think beyond the close, so the most critical aspect of your sales strategies is that they should be proactive.

Make sure that new and old customers alike keep getting the most out of your product by looking for ways to show initiative by checking that they have everything they need.

If done correctly, everything we have discussed so far will enable you to continue bringing value to your customers and your SaaS business in the long run.



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Freshness & SEO: An Underrated Concept

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Freshness & SEO: An Underrated Concept


The author’s views are entirely his or her own (excluding the unlikely event of hypnosis) and may not always reflect the views of Moz.

During my time in search, there are certain ranking factors that I’ve changed my perspective on. For instance, after coming to Go Fish Digital and working on internal linking initiatives, I started to realize the power of internal links over time. By implementing internal links at scale, we were able to see consistent success.

Freshness is another one of these factors. After working with a news organization and testing the learnings gained from that work on other sites, I started to see the immense power that content refreshes could produce. As a result, I think the entire SEO community has underrated this concept for quite some time. Let’s dig into why.

Reviewing news sites

This all started when we began to work with a large news publisher who was having trouble getting in Google’s Top Stories for highly competitive keywords. They were consistently finding that their content wasn’t able to get inclusion in this feature, and wanted to know why.

Inclusion in “Top stories”

We began to perform a lot of research around news outlets that seemed quite adept at getting included in Top Stories. This immediately turned our attention to CNN, the site that is by far the most skilled in acquiring coveted Top Stories positions.

By diving into their strategies, one consistent trend we noticed was that they would always create a brand new URL the day they wanted to be included in the Top Stories carousel:

As an example, here you can see that they create a unique URL for their rolling coverage of the Russia-Ukraine war. Since they know that Google will show Top Stories results daily for queries around this, they create brand new URLs every single day:

    • cnn.com/europe/live-news/russia-ukraine-war-news-05-16-22/index.html

    • cnn.com/europe/live-news/russia-ukraine-war-news-05-21-22/index.html

    • cnn.com/europe/live-news/russia-ukraine-war-news-05-23-22/index.html

This flies in the face of traditional SEO advice that indicates web owners need to keep consistent URLs in order to ensure equity isn’t diluted and keywords aren’t cannibalized. But to be eligible for Top Stories, Google needs a “fresh” URL to be indexed in order for the content to qualify.

After we started implementing the strategy of creating unique URLs every day, we saw much more consistent inclusion for this news outlet in Top Stories for their primary keywords.

However, the next question we wanted to address was not just how to get included in this feature, but also how to maintain strong ranking positions once there.

Ranking in “Top stories”

The next element that we looked at was how frequently competitors were updating their stories once in the Top Stories carousel, and were surprised at how frequently top news outlets refresh their content.

We found that competitors were aggressively updating their timestamps. For one query, when reviewing three articles over a four-hour period, we found the average time between updates for major outlets:

  1. USA Today: Every 8 Minutes

  2. New York Times: Every 27 minutes

  3. CNN: Every 28 minutes

For this particular query, USA Today was literally updating their page every 8 minutes and maintaining the #1 ranking position for Top Stories. Clearly, they were putting a lot of effort into the freshness of their content.

But what about the rest of us?

Of course, it’s obvious how this would apply to news sites. There is certainly no other vertical where the concept of “freshness” is going to carry more weight to the algorithm. However, this got us thinking about how valuable this concept would be to the broader web. Are other sites doing this, and would it be possible to see SEO success by updating content more frequently?

Evergreen content

Fortunately, we were able to perform even more research in this area. Our news client also had many non-news specific sections of their site. These sections contain more “evergreen” articles where more traditional SEO norms and rules should apply. One section of their site contains more “reviews” type of content, where they find the best products for a given category.

When reviewing articles for these topics, we also noticed patterns around freshness. In general, high ranking articles in competitive product areas (electronics, bedding, appliances) would aggressively update their timestamps on a monthly (sometimes weekly) cadence.

For example, as of the date of this writing (May 25th, 2022), I can see that all of the top three articles for “best mattress” have been updated within the last 7 days.

Looking at the term “best robot vacuum”, it looks like all of the articles have been updated in the last month (as of May 2022):

Even though these articles are more “evergreen” and not tied to the news cycle, it’s obvious that these sites are placing a high emphasis on freshness with frequent article updates. This indicated to us that there might be more benefits to freshness than just news story results.

Performing a test

We decided to start testing the concept of freshness on our own blog to see what the impact of these updates could be. We had an article on automotive SEO that used to perform quite well for “automotive seo” queries. However, in recent years, this page lost a lot of organic traffic:

The article still contained evergreen information, but it hadn’t been updated since 2016:

It was the perfect candidate for our test. To perform this test, we made only three changes to the article:

  1. Updated the content to ensure it was all current. This changed less than 5% of the text.

  2. Added “2022” to the title tag.

  3. Updated the timestamp.

Immediately, we saw rankings improve for the keyword “automotive seo”. We moved from ranking on the third page to the first page the day after we updated the content:

To verify these results, we tested this concept on another page. For this next article, we only updated the timestamp and title tag with no changes to the on-page content. While we normally wouldn’t recommend doing this, this was the only way we could isolate whether “freshness” was the driving change, and not the content adjustments.

However, after making these two updates, we could clearly see an immediate improvement to the traffic of the second page:

These two experiments combined with other tests we’ve performed are showing us that Google places value on the recency of content. This value extends beyond just articles tied to the news cycle.

Why does Google care?

E-A-T considerations

Thinking about this more holistically, Google utilizing the concept of freshness makes sense from their E-A-T initiatives. The whole concept of E-A-T is that Google wants to rank content that it can trust (written by experts, citing facts) above other search results. Google has a borderline public responsibility to ensure that the content it serves is accurate, so it’s in the search giant’s best interest to surface content that it thinks it can trust.

So how does freshness play into this? Well, if Google thinks content is outdated, how is it supposed to trust that the information is accurate? If the search engine sees that your article hasn’t been updated in five years while competitors have more recent content, that might be a signal that their content is more trustworthy than yours.

For example, for the term “best camera phones”, would you want to read an article last updated two years ago? For that matter, would you even want an article last updated six months ago?

As we can see, Google is only ranking pages that have been updated within the last one or two months. That’s because the technology changes so rapidly in this space that, unless you’re updating your articles every couple of months or so, you’re dramatically behind the curve.

Marketplace threats

The concept of freshness also makes sense from a competitive perspective. One of the biggest weaknesses of an indexation engine is that it’s inherently hard to serve real-time results. To find when content changes, a search engine needs time to recrawl and reindex content. When combined with the demands of crawling the web at scale, this becomes extremely difficult.

On the other hand, social media sites like Twitter don’t have this issue and are made to serve real-time content. The platform isn’t tasked with indexing results, and engagement metrics can help quickly surface content that’s gaining traction. As a result, Twitter does a much better job of surfacing trending content.

Thinking about the web from a platform based perspective, it makes sense that most users would choose Twitter over Google when looking for real-time information. This causes a big threat to Google, as it’s a reason for users to migrate off the ecosystem, thus presenting fewer opportunities to serve ads.

Recently in Top Stories, you now see a lot more “Live Blog Posts”. These articles utilize LiveBlogPosting structured data, which signals to Google that the content is getting updated in real-time. While looking for real-time URLs across the entire web is daunting, using this structured data type can help them better narrow in on content they need to be crawling and indexing more frequently.

Google seems to be aggressively pushing these live blogs in Top Stories as they often see strong visibility in Top Stories results:

This might be a strategic move to encourage publishers to create real-time content. The goal here could be increased adoption of content that’s updated in real-time with the end result of showcasing to users that they can get this type of content on Google, not just Twitter.

Utilizing these concepts moving forward

I think as an industry, sometimes there’s room for us to be more creative when thinking about our on-page optimizations. When looking at how to improve pages that have lost traffic and positions over time, we could take freshness into consideration. When looking at pages that have lost prominence over time, we might want to consider checking if that content is also outdated. Through testing and experimentation, you could see if updating the freshness of your content has noticeable positive impacts on ranking improvements.



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Build-A-Bear using data to make itself into an all-ages brand

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Build-A-Bear using data to make itself into an all-ages brand


Build-A-Bear is remaking itself for the 25th anniversary of its founding this year. This means using its experience and its data to appeal to older customers and create stronger online connections.

“The goal that was stated for us was to diversify our brand, evolve our retail portfolio and build stronger relationships with our consumers,” said Ed Poppe, Build-A-Bear’s vice president, loyalty and performance marketing for Build-A-Bear, in a presentation at The MarTech Conference.

That’s why they launched HeartBox, an e-commerce play which the company says will let it move into “the adult-to-adult gift-giving and gift box market which has been meaningfully expanding over the past few years.” This goes along with its new Bear Cave line of “adult” bears (in this case adult means they have alcohol in hand). The brand has also expanded through partnerships with film, entertainment and streaming TV properties like Harry Potter, Pokémon, The Matrix and the Marvel series WandaVision.

These efforts are designed to give more options to customers who buy online, and increase options for engagement. This has required integrating new teams and new sources of data.

Connecting customer data and teams

“Over half of businesses now say that they expect the majority of their revenue to come from digital channels,” said Loretta Shen, senior director, product marketing, marketing cloud intelligence for Salesforce. “To meet changing consumer behavior, marketers are adopting digital channels like video, social media and digital ads across search and paid media. But it’s not just adopting these channels, but how you use them, and in particular how you use them in tandem.”

Build-A-Bear adapted to customers’ increased digital use by adding new digital experiences while also reorganizing customer data to better understand what customers want.

“We have to understand our guests at Build-A-Bear,” said Bryce Ahrens, Build-A-Bear’s senior analyst, CRM, loyalty and performance marketing. “How do they engage with our email, our websites, our advertising and, of course, how do they engage and experience our in-store environment?”

They keep a large CRM database made up of loyalty program members, website customers, retail customers and sales prospects. Additionally, through access to the CRM, the organization is pulling together different teams: web development, analytics, marketing and also data privacy people.

These teams have to remain connected because data is coming through different systems. Build-A-Bear has a first-party data warehouse, a commerce cloud storefront, an order management system, marketing cloud, an email platform and different analytics solutions, not to mention ad platforms for campaigns.

“We need to be able to bring this information together, prioritize what we look at, and identify strategies to move quickly,” said Ahrens.

Read next: What you need to know to grow your e-commerce business

Count Your Candles

Data and digital experience come together in an ongoing Build-A-Bear effort called “Count Your Candles.”

The promotion is a special offer for customers to order a discounted bear (regularly priced at $14) that costs a dollar amount that matches their age.

The dedicated webpage for this promotion also allows customers and gift-givers to buy gift cards and become loyalty members. Additionally, there are a number of other ways that customers can celebrate birthdays, including in-store birthday parties and special birthday gift boxes that can be ordered and delivered.

These strategies came from marketers looking at the data and seeing what sparked their customers’ interests. In this case, it was birthdays.

“We’re lucky to have a team up here who wants to jump in and help drive our business forward,” said Poppe. “But it also brings us back to where it’s important to aggregate data, identify patterns, see your opportunities, and pick your path forward.”


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About The Author

Chris Wood draws on over 15 years of reporting experience as a B2B editor and journalist. At DMN, he served as associate editor, offering original analysis on the evolving marketing tech landscape. He has interviewed leaders in tech and policy, from Canva CEO Melanie Perkins, to former Cisco CEO John Chambers, and Vivek Kundra, appointed by Barack Obama as the country’s first federal CIO. He is especially interested in how new technologies, including voice and blockchain, are disrupting the marketing world as we know it. In 2019, he moderated a panel on “innovation theater” at Fintech Inn, in Vilnius. In addition to his marketing-focused reporting in industry trades like Robotics Trends, Modern Brewery Age and AdNation News, Wood has also written for KIRKUS, and contributes fiction, criticism and poetry to several leading book blogs. He studied English at Fairfield University, and was born in Springfield, Massachusetts. He lives in New York.



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How Local Business Schema Can Boost Your Company’s Visibility Online

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How Local Business Schema Can Boost Your Company's Visibility Online


You’ve started a website for your local business, but with so much competition out there, you may be struggling to make your website more visible online. That lack of visibility could hinder potential customers from finding your company. To improve your visibility in search engine results, local business schema could be the tool you need.

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