Organizing your SaaS marketing efforts into campaigns allows you to track, report, analyze, and pivot, using specific audience segments and messages. In this article we will go through the best practices you need to know to set up effective campaigns in general; then we will get into four specific SaaS marketing campaigns you can implement now to start: 1) attracting new traffic, 2) getting people into your free trial, 3) converting them into paying customers, and 4) nurturing them into sharing your solution with others. Let’s begin with the foundation - your business goals.
Start With Your Campaign Goals
It’s incredible how often otherwise sharp marketing leaders get caught up in time-based, or tool-based planning, and end up with the wrong foundation for their SaaS marketing campaigns. You can tell if you’ve fallen into this common trap if you’re saying things like, “Did we plan out our 4 blogs and 2 emails for the month?” Or, “What are we going to do on Tik Tok?” The better question is, what audience and goal are we reaching for with this campaign?” The tools and tactics and timeframe will follow from there.
The right way to think about a campaign is as a container to hold your activities toward a specific goal. So, it follows that thinking about a goal is your first step. Many SaaS companies have goals to increase the number of qualified leads converting into a live sales process, or to boost freemium or trial subscriptions. To make these goals more specific, we recommend diving deeper to create SMART goals.
What is a SMART Campaign Goal?
SMART stands for Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, Time-Based. The best, most achievable goals hit each of these points and provide a great catalyst for your campaign planning. A special note here is that you can create several campaigns to reach toward one common goal. So, what do these SMART goals actually look like for SaaS companies?
Here are a few examples of SMART campaign goals for SaaS:
- Increase trial subscriptions by 35% this quarter compared to last quarter
- Improve conversion rate from trial to basic subscription by 7% compared to this time last year
- Attract at least 100 new subscribers into our certification program this month
Once you have your SMART goals in mind, you can start to plan out campaigns to get you there. You will connect this goal to all your work on buyer personas, the buyer’s journey, and your content marketing to start providing value to your leads and turning them into lifelong customers.
How to Organize a SaaS Marketing Campaign
Start with your SMART Goal, then add in the answer to this question: “What does a person in this campaign need to know and understand about my solution, brand, or business in order to take your desired action?” The assets served within your campaign will answer these questions and provide enough information, examples, or supporting proof points to make that desired action a no brainer.
- SMART Goal: “Increase trial subscriptions by 35% this quarter compared to last quarter”
- What does a visitor need to know in order to become a trial subscriber?
- What the solution does
- That the solution works
- That it’s easy for them to implement and succeed
- The benefits of the solution to their specific situation
- That other people like them have used it and loved it
- That you’re here to help
- Here is some content you might plan to answer these questions:
- Here’s our solution, and it works.
- Screen share of the solution
- It’s easy to implement and it works
- Mini case studies
- Benefits of the solution
- 3-blog series, each on one specific benefit
- Other people have used and loved the solution
- We’re here to help
- Clear information about your knowledge base and support options
- Here’s our solution, and it works.
Notice that this list is not focused on the media channels by which each of these topics will be distributed. Again, that’s not the important part of campaigns. The means by which this information is shared will change based on the buyer persona and where they hang out or access information, and many of these messages can be repurposed and shared across many different media at once.
That said, think about the following channels and media for distributing your important campaign messages:
- Video (on your website, social media channels, YouTube, even email)
- Email (segmented batch emails and automated workflows)
- Organic social media posting and community engagement
- Advertising (search, display, social)
- Blog and website content
SaaS Campaign Creative
The creative is what a lot of people think of first when they think about a campaign. It’s the snappy lead-in, or the big advertising campaign headline, or the pictures and video you’d like to make to showcase your favorite feature. However, the creative actually must flow from the strategy, and the assets you create will follow. Your campaign creative will oftentimes include a mix of:
- Campaign headline / tagline
- Website pages
- Long-form video
- Short-form video
- Social posts
Whatever you create, it’s incredibly important to understand where you want people to land. Quite simply, you need a landing page. Your ads, social posts, emails and videos should funnel each viewer into a landing page where they are guided to take your desired action, whether that’s signing up for a trial for the first time, requesting a personalized consultation, or deciding on the best pricing option. The key is creating your campaign assets in a way that builds up to that desired conversion.
Have Good Tools to Serve and Analyze Campaigns
Some of our SaaS clients have expressed feeling overwhelmed in keeping track of all the separate assets and campaign channels that are part of a big marketing push. How on earth do you keep track of metrics across so many platforms, and how do you know what influences the conversion you’re trying to encourage, so that you can do more of it? We oftentimes recommend using HubSpot Marketing Hub as the primary platform to manage all of these metrics and components. We’ve found that it makes it easy to configure a campaign, build all the assets, and report on every item adding to your conversion success.
4 Campaign Ideas for SaaS Marketing Success
Let’s get into four concrete campaign ideas to get you started at every level of your software marketing strategy. Just like the three key phases of SaaS marketing, you will need three key campaigns. Of course, this is not an exhaustive strategy; you will need many additional campaigns in the lifetime of your company’s marketing. We will start with four examples to cover the four key phases of your company’s flywheel. Your first campaign will focus on attracting right-fit prospects to your website and converting them into leads. Your second campaign takes your brand new leads from viewers to trial users. Your third campaign is to turn trial users into paid subscribers, and your fourth campaign will serve the function of delighting your customers into brand advocacy. Let’s get started with the first campaign.
Campaign Idea: Attracting the Right Traffic in the First Place
The most obvious place to start is attracting the right people to your website in the first place. A great campaign to start with is an effort around a pillar concept that can attract website visitors, and get them into your marketing funnel so you can provide them the solution they’re looking for. An effort like this starts with identifying your pillar topic, publishing an expansive central “pillar page” about that topic, and then planning a cluster of content around it that sets your website up for SEO success. We’ve written about pillar-and-cluster SEO content at length here, so we won’t go in-depth in this article, but the basic concept is choosing one of your most important keywords (like, “SaaS Marketing,” the pillar topic that goes with the article you’re reading now) to serve as your pillar page focus, and then brainstorming the most relevant subtopics you’ll dive into with deeper, more detailed blogs (for example, “SaaS Marketing Campaign”). An important note is to do your research (use a tool like Ahrefs or SEMRush) on how often your desired terms are searched, and find tweaks to give you the best chance of capitalizing on terms people actually search.
Organizing your website content in this way makes the search engines happy, and helps the right people find your content organically. Once you have it built and available, the next step in your lead generation campaign is to enhance your organic traffic with some content promotion efforts, including:
- Organic Social Posting
- Social Media Advertising
- Google Search Advertising
- Google Display Advertising
Your campaign won’t stop there. Once people find the content, your next job in your pillar-based campaign is to provide relevant calls-to-action (CTAs) to capture those viewers for follow up and flow them into some of the campaigns that follow. Once your pillar content captures attention, try CTAs that offer one or more of the following along your pillar theme. Decide which content and offers you want to gate such as:
- Downloadable Ebook
- Interactive Worksheet
- Results Calculator
- Webinar Recording
- Product Demo
- Personal Consultation
Lastly, try using an email nurturing campaign to continue interacting with these new leads to get them excited about a free trial. We’ll get into more detail on your lead-to-trial campaign in the next section.
Campaign Idea: Getting Leads to Convert Into a Free Trial
One of the most important campaigns for any SaaS business to run is one that gets your anonymous visitors to become free trial users. Most SaaS companies have multiple campaigns leading into the free trial, some on an evergreen basis, and others launching on a rolling basis. At a basic level, you’ll want to have an evergreen campaign running that you use as a pipeline into your trial on your website, social channels, and monthly advertising. Your evergreen campaign will include:
- Calls to Action (CTAs) on your website - think about adding trial CTAs onto your home page, in your blog sidebar or posts - or even in your navigation menu, or footer.
- Landing Page - clear, concise, beautifully-designed landing page to convert leads into your trial.
- Long Term Nurture Email Sequence - offer a mixture of content once or twice a month and include a trial CTA inside the email as well as within the content that it links to.
In addition to your evergreen campaigns, which will change once or twice a year, you’ll want to also get creative with monthly or quarterly campaigns around particular topics leading into your trial. One way to plan your SaaS marketing campaign is around a particular benefit your solution provides for a selected persona. Your messaging in blog content, how-to videos, emails, social media posts and ads can revolve around one benefit, which is the centerpiece of your campaign. Another way to organize your campaign theme is around an industry vertical, or a series of user case studies around a particular persona. Depending on your particular monthly or quarterly goal, you can choose a theme that works best for one of your rolling campaigns.
Campaign Idea: Trial to Paid Subscription
Once you have a user in your free trial, the next step is to get them excited about becoming a paid subscriber. One of the most important tools in the trial to paid campaign will be your automated email flow that helps your trial user along, providing them all the details and education they need in order to make that purchasing decision. We recommend building an automated email workflow that aligns with the timeframe of your trial (which is commonly 2 weeks). Try the following 5 email topics, spaced out a few days in between.
- Welcome to the Trial (include your best tips for getting the most value right away)
- Use Case Example (inspire your trial users with a simple use case or 2)
- Social Proof (show off your best reviews and testimonials)
- Soft Offer with Content (hint toward your offer and provide some helpful content)
- Direct Offer (include a little urgency now and remind your user the trial is ending soon)
Use in-app tooltips and blog content to assist in your efforts here, aligning all of the content around a particular design theme as well as consistent language across channels and assets. Make your message clear, and your processes straightforward. If your trial user is at a self-serve level, make sure it’s easy to sign up for a paid subscription online. If your trial user is in need of a personalized consultation/business solutions meeting with a rep from your company, funnel them toward booking that meeting with your trial-to-paid campaign. The key is to segment your audience and make it clear and easy to become a paid subscriber.
Campaign Idea: Automated Customer Delight
Your marketing department or agency is not off the hook when someone becomes a paying customer. In fact, one of the most important factors in reducing churn and increasing the average lifetime value of your customers is your ongoing relationship with your loyal subscribers. One campaign idea that can help you toward this goal is an automated nurture sequence that goes out to your customers, encouraging them to engage with your vibrant user community, your intriguing content, or your education and certification programs.
This campaign can run on an evergreen basis, and it's common for SaaS companies to segment the flow of messaging for different types of users - either by subscription level, or persona, or both. This allows your email messaging to be tailored and specific to your specific user groups, resulting in a more personalized customer experience, and a greater perceived value of your brand.
Your customer delight campaign can revolve around an automated email workflow, set to deliver once or twice a month after your customer signs up for your solution. Each email is an opportunity to personalize recommendations for functions to try or case studies to read, and can provide a platform for sharing other fun community-building experiences, like special free training webinars on Facebook Live, or certification programs to help boost your users’ resumes. The key is to remain top of mind and to provide unexpected value or perks to your customers on a consistent basis.
Beyond email, your customer delight efforts can be delivered through in-app messages, on customer-only Slack channels or Facebook groups, via retargeted advertising specifically for customers, or featured website content promoting members-only specials or rewards.
Time to Start
It’s true: running simultaneous evergreen and topical campaigns, and keeping up with all the best practices so that your marketing campaigns are adding up to improvements in your most important KPIs, and making sure you’re hitting all the right points at all the right stages with all of your buyer personas is quite a detailed endeavor. It takes a great SaaS marketing team, a powerful marketing automation platform, and a marketing vision that keeps the right leads flowing into and through your pipeline. But the good news is that the more you do it, the better you will get. So go forth and start launching some campaigns.
This post was originally published July 2020 and updated July 2021.