Marketing Strategy for Startups in SaaS

Developing a sound marketing strategy is essential to successfully launching any new business, and that’s especially true in the software as a service (SaaS) space. Designing a project simply isn’t sufficient, for the world (including the digital world) is full of startups that had products but no effective marketing strategies -- over half of all startups fail within 24 months after launch. For many of these new businesses, that two-year timeframe shows they aren’t effectively selling their product to the market.

However, a startup marketing strategy that is designed well and properly executed can propel a startup business not just to success but potentially toward exponential growth. These successful marketing campaign examples serve as startup marketing case studies that speak for themselves:

  • MailChimp: When MailChimp realized target customers were mispronouncing the company name, it launched a series of nine mini-marketing campaigns. Each one featured a pun on “MailChimp” and played on the question, “Did you mean MailChimp?” The campaign ultimately netted more than 67 million organic searches, $3.52 in earned media value -- and a Grand Prix Award at Cannes.
  • Slack: Slack spends notoriously little on marketing and content generation, considering the company raised $1.26 billion. Rather than generating content, Slack has aggressively utilized word-of-mouth advertising to grow its platform. A large portion of the company’s website traffic is direct or through user’s links, and it ranks highly for terms related to how users make use of the platform. When Slack does create content, it’s often to tell users' stories.
  • The sales team at has historically been extremely small -- as in nonexistent -- yet the company has become a force in the time scheduling SaaS space. To achieve its success, the company has prioritized direct response advertising funnels that take advantage of pay-per-click (PPC) advertising and social media marketing (SMM).

Common Marketing Challenges All Startups Face

All startup businesses face certain marketing challenges that are common across most industries. New businesses must always contend with identifying their main customer base, identifying effective sales channels, developing effective marketing material and managing defined (not to mention sometimes small) budgets that require creative marketing ideas.    

Unique Marketing Challenges SaaS Startups Face    

For SaaS startups, the software space creates some unique challenges that make marketing all the more difficult. Specifically, new SaaS businesses must overcome:    

  • Reaching customers across an ever-expanding number of sales channels
  • Outperforming new competitors that emerge due to low barriers to entry
  • Addressing customer requirements and requests that may be demanding
  • Meeting ever-higher customer expectations

Increased customer expectations alone strain many teams marketing in startups, as simply sending out an email or creating a basic landing page is no longer enough. Customers expect to realize true value from all marketing materials, including content that is informative, sellers who are knowledgeable and customer support teams that are responsive. Anything that doesn’t provide value is liable to be ignored, and not meeting these three criteria within a single effort can leave significant holes in conversion rates.

Despite these many and ranging challenges, however, it is possible to develop a successful marketing strategy for startups. Below are a few aspects of what a strategy should have.

Marketing for Startups 

The preeminent rule in marketing for startups is to always keep the customer in focus. No matter what out-of-the-box ideas for marketing or innovative marketing strategies a SaaS startup has, all efforts will be for naught if they aren’t centered around the target customer. Remember those increasing customer expectations mentioned above?    

The above comments on customer expectations illustrate how much value marketing campaigns must provide to SaaS customers -- providing value isn’t enough. Marketing collateral must also place emphasis on the customer rather than the company. At a very basic level, the customer’s concerns trump the company’s achievements.    

Many of the best marketing campaigns of all time have adopted a customer-centric focus by using a narrative or story approach. These strategies often place the customer as the hero or protagonist of a marketing campaign’s narrative flow.    

Realize the Value of Early Adopters  

In the vein of maintaining a customer focus, SaaS startups would be wise to realize the value that their very first customers provide. Early adopters can prove that there is demand for a product, leave influential reviews when there are few posted, and most importantly produce input on a company’s products or services.    

Many early adopters will be willing to provide feedback if a SaaS company personally reaches out and explains why the customer’s input is important. Customer inquiry responses will be even better if customers are viewed as customer-partners and benefit from a pilot program or exclusive founding customer benefits.    

Define SMART Goals    

With customer importance in the background, startups can then create marketing goals. Goals should be well-defined, and it’s helpful to follow the common SMART criteria (specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and time-bound).    

When defining marketing goals, startups should think carefully about whether they’re driving for leads, revenue, pipeline investment or some other end goal.   

Startup Marketing Ideas     

The list of startup marketing ideas for SaaS businesses is extensive, and the best startup marketing campaigns often utilize multiple strategies in one campaign. The best marketers can develop out-of-the-box ideas for marketing that move the needle. Of course, many of these strategies must be low-cost marketing campaigns for startups due to budget constraints.    

Some effective low-cost marking strategies for SaaS startups to try include:    

  • Following a freemium for free trial business plan
  • Offering customers a worthwhile referral program
  • Creating quality content for inbound marketing
  • Repurposing content to minimize content creation budget
  • Encourage customer testimonies on customer sites, your site, third-party platforms
  • Utilize pay-per-click advertising and social media marketing    

PPC and SMM can be especially effective, even in a business-to-business (B2B) setting. They also can be adjusted to suit a wide range of budgets, including ones that can spend only a small amount on digital marketing.    

In addition to these online marketing strategies, SaaS startups should also use offline marketing opportunities whenever they arise. Constantly networking and giving interviews are two offline ways to increase visibility and reach potential customers.   

For help with the digital portion of SaaS startup marketing, we at High Alpha can help. We don’t provide marketing for all digital businesses, but specialize in SaaS startups that serve B2B markets.    

We’ve worked with more than 30 companies that meet these criteria, and we have the track record to prove that we’re able to craft effective marketing campaigns that use startup marketing ideas like these. We can help market for an exit, prioritize customers and otherwise successfully market your business.    

Digital Marketing Strategy for Startups   

Any digital marketing strategy for startups should be customized to a particular company, and strategies will vary at points because of this. Every SaaS startup marketing plan template ought to include the same foundational elements of a successful campaign. These include:    

  • Website: A website is the central piece of any online marketing campaign. A site frequently serves as the point of first impression and final conversion, and it’s all some customers may see before they make a purchasing decision.
  • PPC: PPC advertising helps capture website visitors at multiple different points. PPC campaigns can capture potential customers who search high-conversion terms, who browse related content, or who visit a company’s site but then leave.
  • Paid Media: Paid media marketing allows companies to place inbound marketing content in front of customers. Natural-looking content can have high conversion rates.    

At High Alpha, we assist with all of these digital marketing strategies for small business startups. We’ll take the foundational elements and tailor them to your business’ product.    

Social Media Marketing Strategies for Startups    

Social media marketing helps raise brand awareness and allows for highly targeted campaigns. It’s widely used in B2C marketing, but several B2B SaaS companies have also found immense success in social media management for startups.    

So, how do you promote your startup on social media? SMM encompasses everything from sponsored posts and influencers to organically reaching potential customers through original content. Some companies also make it into a customer service platform. Our team at High Alpha can identify the best way to utilize it for your new startup.   

Partner with a Venture Studio for Go-To-Market Expertise   

At High Alpha, we partner with our portfolio companies and help them create their first marketing campaigns. Our team has the expertise necessary to help you take your startup to the next level.

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