So, you have a SaaS business, you've generated some revenue, and now you want to attract thousands of new users to reach the next level.
Did you know that 40 cents of every venture dollar is delegated to advertising? That means 40% of every dollar of venture capital deployed in a new startup is spent on Facebook ads, Google ads, Amazon ads, etc.
But if you don't have a billion dollars in venture capital money to spend on ads, what do you do? How do you compete with these guys? How do you get your software off the ground?
The answer doesn’t lie in pay-per-click ads; you can’t stand toe-to-toe with all the heavyweight companies on these platforms. PPC adverts will drain your funds, and as soon as you stop them, any influx of new users will come to an immediate halt.
This article discusses some organic growth hacks you can implement for your SaaS product. Split into three parts, it will guide you through:
Finding what your customer wants.
Implementing partner marketing.
Word-of-mouth and social media growth.
What Does Your Ideal Customer Want?
You need to be specific about your audience’s desired outcomes to guide all of your communications. Understanding your customers inside and out is critical to deliver a great customer experience.
Hone in on who they are, what they want, which tools they use, where they hang out (online and offline), and what’s preventing them from reaching their desired outcome. Narrow down as much as possible, because the rest of these principles build upon this. The deeper you dive into your audience, the more effectively you can speak to them.
A questionnaire for your existing customers can be helpful here. You can analyze survey responses and identify any common characteristics your customers share.
Now that you’ve identified your ideal customer, you need to determine who sells to them currently. Your SaaS product must complement their retail; this is the core of partner marketing.
Partner marketing is simply one company using another company’s resources to generate sales. The relationship is reciprocal, and while it’s an old-school marketing principle, the rules are slightly different for software.
There are three ways you can employ this in SaaS:
1. API Integration
The first method is API integration. Let’s say you had a brick-and-mortar company back in the day, and you wanted to forge a partnership with another business. You would have to meet with them, get special permission, and draw up a contract. API integration eliminated all that for base-level partnerships for SaaS businesses.
API integration is a connection between two or more applications via their APIs, which allows those systems to exchange data. APIs are the de facto open standard for starting a business development relationship.
When you integrate into a complementary company or software, you essentially enter into an informal partnership with them. You each add value to your mutual customers.
The easiest way to pursue this is to discover which companies are already selling to your ideal customers and then figure out how to perform API integrations into them.
For example, you may find a CRM product that attracts many people who could also use your SaaS product. If it doesn’t have built-in video calls, you could craft a browser extension that inserts a button inside the CRM.
You can then email the company with a simple message such as, "Hey, I integrated with your tool, here's the exact value we provide. It'd be awesome if you could promote this to your list." Just like that, you can gain exposure to thousands of people because you hooked into their open API and created something useful.
It’s imperative to learn which products are complementary and to identify a gap they haven’t filled. By filling that gap and promoting the integration, it’s possible to receive a huge boost in the number of sign-ups and conversions for your product.
2. Join the Company’s Marketplace
The second way is to forge a partnership within the company’s online store platforms. Let’s say you have a Chrome extension that hooks into Gmail. It makes sense to have a listing in the Chrome web store.
You know what your ideal customer is searching for on the Chrome web store if you’ve made a detailed, fleshed-out profile. With it, you can optimize your SEO so they can find you. The Chrome web store then ends up as one of your largest user generation platforms.
Building on the previous two points, the last piece of partner marketing you can employ is co-marketing and co-selling.
In this, you approach companies and say something like, "Hey, you have 100 salespeople and are selling CRM software (which you own) to your customers. Now, I'll tell you why my product, one of the best VoIP solutions, is super valuable. And, if you sell it to your customers, they’ll recognize more value and stick around longer. Just have your marketing and sales teams include our product when you sell it, or as part of some post-sale process."
As an extra incentive, you can offer the company you co-market with a share of revenue. These kinds of arrangements do exist and are incredible when they work. It means you don't have to build your own sales team — your partner company sells your product for you. What’s more, your partner company is more than happy to do it because it will improve their product reviews, customer satisfaction, and customer loyalty.
Word-of-Mouth and Social Media
It’s important to remember the service part of “software as a service.” This requires you to optimize and constantly improve customer service. It’s about how you talk to customers and the process of solving their problems. It sounds simple, but this is the key to word-of-mouth viral growth, and can often be overlooked when viewing metrics for scaling.
Too many people focus on the software and their product’s features. Helping and caring for your customer can be the key differentiator between you and your competitors. If your customer service is superior, it increases the chances of your SaaS product gaining traction and attracting new users. Strong customer service inspires strong customer loyalty.
To provide top-quality service to your customers, you need to be where they hang out online. For a SaaS company, this will probably be LinkedIn. When used effectively, you can grow your reach organically into a wide network of prospects and provide them with value up front.
The idea is to leverage LinkedIn to reach out to and connect with your perfect-fit customers. But you don’t want to come off as scheming. To avoid the used-car salesman pitch, follow the four-step process below. With these, you’ll bring tangible benefits to your potential prospect.
1. Request a Connection
First is a connection request. You’d be surprised how much exposure your content and product could gain if all you did was search daily for ideal prospects and request to connect with them. Many see who you are and think, "Oh, he's the founder of a website builder software. It's in my space. I'm going to accept." So, start there.
2. Create a Group
The second (and pretty significant) step many people miss is to create an industry group. Make a group on LinkedIn and invite these same prospects to it. Name it something that would appeal to them. This could relate to the role they’re in, so, for example, your group could be called “The Director of Purchasing Alliance.”
It should sound enticing to encourage them to join. They should feel that if they joined this group, they could share with and learn from similar people. It’s as simple as creating the group and inviting them.
You can start with a dozen members and build towards 50 or more. Eventually, you'll have an online community of 1,000-plus prospects supporting each other, with you as the central connector.
3. Create a Free Resource
Third, give them a resource you genuinely think could be helpful, such as a free download with no commitments. Avoid requiring them to sign up for your mailing list or newsletter, as these hurdles can greatly increase website churn, even if the resource is free.
Send them straight to the PDF, template, resource, blueprint — whatever it is, just give it to them as an add-on because once they click it, you’re connected. You invited them to a group that aims to improve their situation and connect with similar individuals. You sent them a resource you created for their benefit. You have their attention.
4. Follow Up
Lastly is the follow-up message, which should be centered around that free resource. Something simple like, "Hey, do you need help with this? Love to have a quick call to see if we can help and demonstrate the product’s full functionality."
Now that you’ve established yourself as an authority and built trust with your prospect, they’re much more likely to take you up on this offer than if you hadn’t bothered to provide a quality, valuable service.
Why not put our advice to work today to create viral growth for your SaaS product?