Generating leads is vital for any business. If you don’t have a steady flow of leads into the top of your funnel, you won’t have a business for long. However, when it comes to SaaS and encouraging prospects to become happy, ongoing customers, the quality of the leads you generate is at least as important as the quantity (if not more so).
In this post, we’re going to cover five lead generation techniques every SaaS marketer needs to know about. We’ll look at their pros, cons, and ideas to help you get started.
1. Content Marketing
As defined by the Content Marketing Institute, content marketing is “a strategic marketing approach focused on creating and distributing valuable, relevant, and consistent content to attract and retain a clearly defined audience.”
Examples of commonly used content include blog posts (like this one), case studies, white papers and so on, while technology has made visually rich content such as infographics and video guides more popular.
However, the increasing popularity of content has also diminished its effectiveness. Leaving out all the other forms of content, there are over 5 million blog posts being created every single day.
With all that content out there, it’s harder than ever to stand out. The days of putting up any old blog post and seeing results are long gone. As a bare minimum, you need to provide unique, interesting, valuable content, in an easy-to-digest format. You also need an effective distribution channel. Even the best content won’t do you any good if no-one can find it.
On top of that, it’s essential to remember the purpose of your content. You’re not trying to get the most likes on social media, you’re trying to generate leads for your SaaS. That means your content should turn curious visitors into warm leads and, eventually, happy customers. As well as being top quality, your content has to:
- Be tailored to your ideal customer.
- Build trust and confidence in you as a solution to their problems.
- Have a compelling Call To Action (CTA).
This means you’ll have to do your research. What questions do your existing customers ask? What problems do you solve for them? What would make their lives easier? The best place to find out is by talking to your customers directly.
While content marketing is a great way to generate leads, it’s effectiveness is limited for companies without an established presence. If you’re a new company and need to generate leads quickly, you’ll likely need to use some of the other lead generation techniques mentioned here.
2. Outbound Marketing
Whether it’s the adverts in the middle of the latest reality show or the billboard you pass every day on the way to spin class, paying for your prospect’s attention is one of the oldest and most popular marketing methods.
While some SaaS companies have used TV ads and Netflix made headlines when they offered $300,000,000 for a billboard company, these traditional methods are beyond the budget of most SaaS startups. However, PPC advertising on platforms such as Google or Facebook puts online advertising within the reach of almost any budget. Naturally, research is needed. You’ll need to find which keywords offer the best balance of high performance at a low cost, which will most likely mean looking for long tail keywords (those with an overall lower volume, but with high specificity). As you can also choose who your ads are shown to, you will need an accurate buyer persona to get the results you need.
Once you’ve found the right keywords, you’ll also need the right copy. You’ll only have a limited number of words, so choose each one wisely. For the best results, avoid trying to be clever and strive for clarity: tell prospects exactly how you can help them with their pain points. Then funnel prospects to a landing page, specific to that ad, which goes into greater detail.
This works best for new companies who haven’t been able to establish other channels and have an advertising budget. It’s also ideal for attracting leads who are problem-aware and searching for solutions. When you’re an unknown entity and no-one’s searching for you, this may be your best technique to gain that initial traction.
3. Email Marketing
If you’re lacking both time and budget, email marketing may be the solution. Email has a whole host of advantages, including low costs to get started and the ability to reach people where they spend most of their time: the inbox.
The first way you can use emails for lead generation is cold email outreach. To be clear, I’m not talking about spam. Everyone’s inbox is full enough without marketers sending nuisance, irrelevant messages. To be effective (and not be instantly deleted) your email should offer clear value, without resorting to any shady tactics. This means doing your homework and finding out more about your prospect.
Obviously, you’ll need to know who you’re emailing. It’s possible to buy lists of prospects, but that carries risks, with many lists out of date or with inaccurate information. When we checked a purchased list of 5,000 leads, half of the details were incorrect. This would mean more bounced emails and increase the chances of your email being labeled as spam. Instead, we recommend researching and building your own list of leads from scratch.
When you write your email, personalize it to the prospect. That’s more than just using a FirstName tag though. Your email should demonstrate you understand the specific challenges they’re facing (as discovered in your research) and how your SaaS can help. Still, you need realistic expectations. Most people aren’t going to sign up on the basis of one email. Instead, use that email to engage with them and hopefully start a conversation.
While we’re big believers in cold email outreach (it’s how we grew our business after all), warm emails have a huge advantage. People are less likely to be suspicious of your emails if they already know you. If you can get your prospects to sign up to your email list (most often as a result of content marketing) you’ll no longer be a stranger in their inbox, but rather an invited guest. By then segmenting your list, you can send highly relevant emails to your prospects, without blasting the same message to every person on your list.
Email marketing is great both for getting that initial traction and for nurturing those leads who are a good fit but not ready to sign up just yet.
If you’re struggling to grow your own platform, you can always take a shortcut and borrow someone else’s audience. However, to be effective, you still need to offer something of value, both to your potential partner and their audience. Your two main options for cross-promotion are 1) influencers and 2) complementary services.
For example, the post you’re reading is a guest post. Jeff and his team get some valuable content for their audience (Thanks Jeff!) and we get to reach a larger audience.
We also link to other services on our site that we know our customers will find useful. As well as being a handy resource, many of the other services return the favor and share our details with their audience.
To be effective, you can’t exchange links with just anyone. Your prospects will see straight through that. Instead, you should be aiming for a Gestalt effect, where the sum is greater than the two separate parts. Both audiences should get major value out of any collaboration.
Beyond shared services, you can take this a step further and create an integration with another complementary service, so that users can take advantage of both services within one platform. It may take more work than sharing a link, but done correctly will offer great value to both sets of customers.
Cross-promotion is a great way of reaching solution-aware leads, who aren’t yet product-aware.
5. Offer optimization
If you’re already using some (or all) of the above methods, the next logical step is to optimize your own sales process to generate more leads. It’s common to think of your sales process as a funnel, with the idea that as leads go through the funnel, a certain percentage will fall out in the process.
100 people visit your site, 50 read your sales page, 20 sign up for your demo, 5 become customers.
While all the other lead generation techniques are about getting as many leads into the top of that funnel as possible, offer optimization is about making sure as many of those leads as possible are retained in the funnel.
It’s worth mentioning here that some people are moving away from sales funnels toward a consumer-focused marketing lifecycle. Check it out if you’re looking for a fresh way to view the nurturing process.
For example, you could play around with different offers and pricing. Recent surveys found that over a third of SaaS providers don’t offer a freemium or free trial option. However, among those who did, over 25% found it was responsible for more than half of their new business.
While you may not want to offer a freemium model, you may still be able to offer different packages based on your typical customer requirements (such as ‘Personal’, ‘Business’ and ‘Enterprise’ packages). While you wouldn’t want to overwhelm prospects with too many choices, a few different, easy to understand offers can increase the chances of your prospect signing up.
Depending on your deal size, account-based marketing could be a viable option. This is where you focus and personalize parts of your funnel to appeal to a specific customer or account. This could be as simple as creating unique content, or as complex as creating a whole new website for visitors from the account domain.
When considering offer-optimization, remember this is ideal for generating more solution-aware leads and works best when used alongside other lead generation techniques.
There are plenty of lead generation techniques out there, and everyone has their favorite. While you may be tempted to jump in and start using all of these immediately, that may not get you the best results. By starting with the method that’s right for your current stage and your customer’s level of awareness, then gradually adding more techniques as your situation changes, you’ll be able to consistently grow your SaaS.