The Ultimate Guide To SaaS Product Marketing
Over the last decade, a growing number of companies have adopted a product-led growth approach to their business. Product marketing is now a trending phrase. But with this relatively new approach, many SaaS companies struggle to define what it actually is or what role it plays.
Some confuse it with general marketing; others think it’s just product management on steroids. This guide will put your mind at ease and help you develop your own strategy to win customers to your product.
Table of contents
- What is SaaS product marketing?
- SaaS product marketing vs. traditional marketing
- The role of SaaS product marketing and how it fits within your company
- What should your SaaS product marketing team look like?
- What does a SaaS product marketing manager do?
- What does a SaaS product marketing strategy look like?
- Measuring the impact of SaaS product marketing with KPIs
- A simple product marketing automation strategy for SaaS
- SaaS product marketing case study
- SaaS product marketing is a function that brings together sales, customer success, and product management. It’s a product-led approach to driving user adoption, retention, and expansion.
- With the right tools, you can automate everything from your email and social media to your user onboarding and marketing analytics.
- You can set KPIs to measure the performance of your product marketing efforts so you can focus your time and energy on what actually works. The AARRR framework is a popular way to do this.
- Ahrefs is a good product marketing case study for inspiration.
What is SaaS product marketing?
SaaS product marketing is a combination of tactics and activities used to promote a SaaS product. It’s an approach that seeks to position your product to deliver the best possible value to your customers while working to increase adoption, retention, and expansion revenue.
SaaS product marketing vs. traditional marketing
SaaS businesses operate on a subscription model, which usually means customers have a monthly opportunity to opt out of the product. As a result, SaaS product marketing doesn’t stop when the customers sign up. Instead, it focuses on the whole user journey, from attracting and onboarding users to retaining them and driving expansion to grow your product.
Traditional marketing, on the other hand, focuses either on generating marketing qualified leads (MQLs) in sales-led organizations or getting signups in product-led organizations.
In short, product marketing is a continuous effort to ensure users adopt your product, engage with it, expand their accounts, and go on to become product advocates.
The role of SaaS product marketing and how it fits within your company
A unique aspect of product marketing is that it runs through every stage of the customer journey. Product marketing plays a role in the following:
- Educating potential customers
- Onboarding users
- Increasing user adoption
- Reducing customer churn
- Identifying opportunities for account expansion
Larger SaaS organizations usually have a dedicated product marketing department that works closely with the sales, customer success, and product management departments. In small businesses and early-stage startups, it’s common for the product manager and marketer to handle product marketing.
What should your SaaS product marketing team look like?
Putting together a product marketing team will depend on the size and stage of your company and the nature of your product. Usually, when early-stage and small SaaS businesses grow to a company size of between 50 – 100, they hire a dedicated product marketing manager (PMM). If you have the budget, an effective product marketing team would consist of the following roles:
- Product marketing manager
- Content marketer
- Researcher / data analysts
- Growth lead
- Marketing strategist
What does a SaaS product marketing manager do?
The product marketing and product management teams work closely together, and sometimes their responsibilities overlap. The product marketing manager’s responsibilities fall into 3 categories; pre-sign-up, onboarding, and account expansion. His roles include:
- Defining the product’s positioning and unique value proposition to drive signups.
- Continually onboarding users, keeping them engaged, and reducing churn.
- Communicating new updates and features to drive product usage.
- Driving customer expansion efforts via upselling, cross-selling, and other techniques.
- Conducting competitive analysis to capitalize on competitors’ weaknesses and gaps.
What does a SaaS product marketing strategy look like?
SaaS product marketing strategy can be divided into 2 phases of the customer journey: pre-signup and post-signup.
Pre-signup product marketing strategy
The pre-signup phase involves everything you have to do to get the product to market and acquire new customers. More specifically, in SaaS, you are looking to acquire trial users.
Here are some useful concepts and tips to consider when planning your strategy:
1. Product positioning
Positioning is the message you send your target market about your product. Successful positioning communicates your product’s unique value to potential customers as the best solution to their needs.
Product positioning expert, April Dunford, puts it this way:
Your positioning needs to be centered on the value that you alone can deliver for customers.
To nail your positioning, it’s crucial to address a specific audience with a specific problem.
2. Countering competition
A good marketing strategy will account for the various competitive threats that your product will face. These include both direct competitors and substitutes.
Direct competitors are SaaS businesses that offer a similar product to yours. For example, competitors Asana and Monday.com are both project management platforms that make it easier to organize projects and collaborate as a team.
Substitutes are alternative products from outside your niche or even outside your industry that can solve the problem your product aims to solve. For example, you could design a SaaS product that makes it easier to write blog posts. But Evernote, Google Docs, and Notion would all be substitutes because they can be used to write a blog, even though those tools are built for different purposes.
You need to know your competitors’ strengths and weaknesses in order to communicate how your product better meets the needs of your target audience.
3. Customer personas
Personas are fictional characters that represent your ideal customers based on everything you know about your best current customers. They help you know who you should target and what they need from your product. The information you need to create personas is:
- The JTBD (jobs-to-be-done) i.e. the task your customer wants to achieve
- Pain points and frustrations in achieving the JTBD
- The benefits and value of your products in relation to alternatives
Once you’ve developed your personas, you can use them to inform your messaging strategy. You can test the messaging or features of your product with customers who match those personas and see how they respond.
4. Marketing tactics and channels
When marketing your SaaS product, you have to utilize different tactics for different channels at different stages. Align your marketing efforts with where your potential customers are in the buying process.
For example, content marketing and SEO channels are great for the early stages of the customer journey. Email marketing can strengthen the relationship with leads and keep your product top of mind.
Post-signup SaaS product marketing strategy
The goal of SaaS post-signup product marketing is to convert trial users to paying users and get paying users to stay and upgrade to higher packages. This can be achieved by combining effective onboarding with tactics that optimize user satisfaction.
You can create an effective onboarding experience for your users by communicating important, timely, and relevant messages to build customer loyalty, increase trial conversions and improve user engagement. Onboarding your users is a continuous process, even after they’ve been with you for some time. Here are some user onboarding best practices:
- Welcome Emails: Sending an email to a new user immediately after they sign up to your product can boost activation rates and help you make a good first impression.
- Walkthrough: Product walkthroughs increase the chances of new users adopting more product features by spotlighting important features they didn’t really know about or misunderstood.
- Self-service: Providing customers with self-service resources such as FAQs and guides empowers them to take control of their own onboarding.
- In-app messaging: Interacting with your users through timely and relevant messages helps with customer retention.
Measuring the impact of SaaS product marketing with KPIs
At each stage of the user journey, you need to set KPIs to know how well you’re achieving your product marketing goals.
In SaaS, the AARRR framework is the most popular method used to track the performance of your product marketing efforts. It is a system for measuring and monitoring key metrics across different stages of the user journey. It is an acronym for Acquisition, Activation, Retention, Referral, and Revenue.
Here are some important metrics or KPIs to track at each stage:
PQLs (product qualified leads) Generated = number of leads who experienced the product’s value based on a free trial or freemium.
Unique Visits = number of distinct people who visited your website.
Visitor-to-signup Rate = number of people who signed up for a trial from your website/app.
CAC (customer acquisition cost) = how much you spend on average to acquire a customer.
Free Trials or Demos Booked = number of free trials or demos booked over a set period directly as a result of your product marketing.
Activation Rate = how many of your new signups reached an activation milestone.
Average Time to Value = the average time it takes for a user to reach an activation milestone.
Customer Churn = percentage of customers who did not renew their subscription.
LTV (customer lifetime value) = how much revenue you earn from a customer over the lifetime of their relationship with you.
LTV/CAC Ratio = how much you earn from a customer compared to how much you spent to acquire them.
User Retention Rate = opposite of churn. The proportion of users you retained in a given time.
Net Promoter Score (NPS) = the proportion of customers who are likely to recommend your product to a friend or colleague, according to a survey.
Revenue Churn = amount of revenue lost due to canceled subscriptions.
MRR/ARR = amount of revenue generated based on the average number of users who continue their subscriptions.
Average Revenue Per User (ARPU) = self-explanatory literally.
A simple product marketing automation strategy for SaaS
Let’s imagine you’re getting 10-50 signups every day, and you have to send a welcome email to every new customer. It’s going to be hard to keep up without making an error. Automation can save you time and ensure you deliver a consistent experience to all users.
The primary purpose of marketing automation in the post-signup stage is to take your users from one stage of the customer journey to another. Here are 5 things to consider:
- Set clear goals: Know exactly what you want to achieve with the automation (e.g. increased activation, reduced churn, or improved retention).
- Map out the user journey: Rely on persona data to anticipate user behavior and customize your automation workflow.
- Identify tasks that need automation: These are usually the tasks you find yourself doing on repeat (signup emails, onboarding process, product updates, etc.)
- Choose the right tools: Consider the goal and the channel where you will interact with the user before deciding on the tools to use.
- Measure and improve: Define, measure, and track your metrics. Perform A/B tests to experiment with different experiences, then iterate.
SaaS product marketing automation tools
Once you’ve identified your goals and the channel you want to communicate through, it’s time to choose the right tool for you.
Here is a checklist of suitable automation tools for different tasks:
- Email: Mailchimp, Drip, ActiveCampaign
- Social media: Buffer, Hootsuite, SocialPilot
- Analytics: Hotjar, MixPanel
- CRM: Salesforce, PipeDrive, HubSpot
- User onboarding: Userpilot, Pendo.io, UserGuiding
SaaS product marketing case study
Here’s one amazing example of a business doing product marketing effectively.
Ahrefs: Integrates their product into their content marketing strategy
Ahrefs cleverly uses content marketing to educate their target audience on SEO best practices and other valuable topics on their YouTube channel and in their blog. But here’s the extra-smart move; almost every video and article demonstrates how users can use Ahrefs’ tools to solve their problems. In effect, you see the value of the product in action. They call it “product-led content.”
Here’s how you can do it too:
- Have an amazing product: The main thing is ensuring you have an incredible product. Make it so good users would be willing to recommend it to others. You probably already know this, but it would surprise you to know how many founders underrate this.
- Know your product really well. As a product marketer, you should know your product like the back of your hand. Be up to date with every new feature launched and familiarize yourself with every use case. Research new use cases for your features if you have to.
- Find topics your customers are searching for. Most of your potential customers will discover your content via search engines, YouTube, and social media (TikTok, LinkedIn, Instagram). If they’re searching for it, it means they’re interested in content around those topics, so focus on commonly searched topics to quickly gain their attention.
- Prioritize topics that let you showcase your product. You can do this by giving each topic a “business potential” score. The score indicates to what extent the topic gives you a natural opportunity to:
a) highlight your product’s features, and
b) present your product as the best solution to a problem.
- Communicate through multiple channels. Ahrefs gives its product and feature updates as much visibility as possible. You will find their content on their blog, YouTube, social media, email newsletter, and even in their app! See the example below.
Now you know what makes a great SaaS product marketing strategy. It’s all about understanding your target user’s problems and pain points, demonstrating how your product solves them in an engaging, personalized, and creative way, and continually giving them a memorable experience. For even more insights, we have compiled lists of the best podcasts and blogs to follow for learning more about product marketing for your SaaS business.
Bonus: What Does The Future Hold For SaaS Product Marketing?
The industry is constantly evolving, and while nothing stated here is new, we expect to see these 3 trends grow in the future:
- More personalized marketing: AI chatbots and machine learning will enable SaaS companies to deliver more personalized and relevant marketing messages to customers.
- Focus on a seamless customer experience: SaaS companies will work to create a unified and smooth experience across their website, product, and customer support, to improve customer satisfaction and loyalty.
- PLG will continue to lead the way: More companies will evolve their go-to-market strategy towards a bottom-up approach where the employees try the products, and the manager buys the software if employees like it.