The focus is on the product
In the digital age, the role of a marketing manager is blurred and often comes down to online promotion. What's the first thing that comes to mind when I say ‘digital marketing’? I bet it’s SEO, paid ads or social media campaigns. However, user acquisition is only the top of the conventional marketing iceberg. Developing a lovable product in the SaaS world remains the task of the highest priority.
Great products trigger word-of-mouth effect which is the most reliable and also the cheapest marketing channel. Therefore, keep in mind that the 4Ps of marketing are still alive and well.
What about SaaS pre-launch stage when you don’t have a product ready yet? I’m here to share our experience and best practices.
Make use of the market research
SaaS marketing starts long before the product gets launched. When you make first steps with your next big thing, it’s a good idea to begin with a detailed research. The first task is to identify the buyer persona. At Chanty we’ve created a number of surveys asking about communication challenges people experience, problems that team chats solve for them and so on. It helped us create an image of the target audience we are building our product for.
We’ve also put together a spreadsheet of all our competitors and made an in-depth analysis to identify their strong and weak points. We’ve carefully examined their target audiences, product features, traffic sources and backlinking domains.
This kind of analysis helps make a decision when you shape your product and answer many questions:
- Is there a free niche you can occupy?
- Which product features should your product include to stay competitive?
- What marketing channels can you rely on?
- And the most important:
What’s your competitive edge?
When you enter a crowded market, making a copy of an existing product may sound like a good idea. As you go further, you realize the product has to stand out. There should be something that makes it special to help you with the future PR campaigns and let you answer the questions like “How are you different from competitor X?”. Believe it or not, this is the most popular question people ask our team at Chanty. Having a clear competitive advantage in mind help you position your startup, determine the target audience and attract more customers.
You can also use marketing hooks that help spread the word. E.g. Slack claims to kill emails. This statement certainly stands out and attracts attention. Groove helpdesk software positions themselves as a “breath of fresh air”. At Chanty we’ve chosen to go with artificial intelligence – the 2017 trend that resonates with our tech savvy audience.
Test your marketing assets
Marketing and design have to go hand in hand to achieve results. What you think as an amazing piece of design or a line of text may be not perceived by your target audience in the same way. How do you know what your buyer persona actually likes?
This is when A/B tests come in handy. We are used to testing out our marketing assets whether it is a coloring scheme, illustration style or an ad header. Facebook works pretty well for this purpose. All you have to do is to create an ad campaign and choose your target audience based on the various options (location, interests, etc) Facebook offers. Unlike regular ad campaigns you might run with Facebook, we recommend to go for ‘pay for impressions’ rather than clicks.
This way you have the highest chance of receiving clicks that come naturally.
The Next step is to compare the results and see if one of the versions of your marketing assets performs significantly better for your target audience.
Design a remarkable landing page
A landing page is all you have when the product isn’t ready yet. While there’s no problem with having a simple one-page website, in the beginning, it must be nevertheless crystal clear and user-friendly as you will never have a second chance to make the first impression. Responsive design that a user can easily open from a mobile device goes without saying.
As you know, traffic is good, but conversions are better. There’s no use in the million dollar design if your website doesn’t serve its initial purpose – converting visitors into leads. Therefore, having a call-to-action along with a simple signup form is a total must. Moreover, if you have a long scrollable web page, don’t forget to put several signup forms so the visitor doesn’t miss a chance to leave an email.
Don’t forget to add the viral after signup popup. Once your visitors turn into early adopters by submitting an email, encourage them to invite their friends. You can reward them for spreading the word about your product by moving up the waiting queue.
Remember, Nike doesn’t sell sports shoes, they sell motivation for courage and success. The content of your product landing page should reflect the values you are delivering with your software, so don’t start off with listing your “unique” features. Big brands sell value, not functionality.
Content marketing is still king
There’s no excuse for not creating content today when digital marketing has turned into a non-stop content creating machine. Starting a blog is a must, moreover, you have to spend more time promoting your content than actually writing it. Keep conversions in mind when working on your articles. It means looking for the right high-intent keywords to attract visitors looking for your product or answers to the questions that your product solves.
The quality of the blog posts goes without saying. You have literally no chance to be noticed in the ocean of valuable in-depth content if you don’t pay attention to the quality. Therefore, I always recommend not to hire freelancers to write content for you. Content becomes useful and valuable only when you put your heart and soul into it. My experience tells me it’s usually hard to expect this from a freelancer.
Find beta testers in advance
We’ve started looking for beta testers long before our actual beta test. On the one hand, more time gives you an opportunity to attract more emails. On the other hand, when you contact those you’ve found half a year ago once your app finally enters its beta, they barely remember you or your app. Therefore, I’d recommend to strike a balance and spend one or two months actively promoting your product to get the precious emails of early adopters. Here are some helpful sources that got us the majority of the emails:
We’ve tried to contact people directly on LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook. As a result, LinkedIn brought us the largest number of early adopters.
Beta platforms (Beta List, Beta Bound, Beta Family, etc)
I should highlight that Beta List was the most effective bringing us twice as many emails compared to other beta platforms altogether.
App review content
It’s hard to overestimate the role of content marketing and SEO when it comes to SaaS promotion. We’ve developed a number of articles reviewing our main competitors that continue to bring us traffic and conversions.
No matter where your marketing activities take you, always keep your product a priority. The overall success of your SaaS depends on whether or not your customers will enjoy using it. If they do, you will be rewarded that viral effect you’ve been craving for. At the pre-launch stage, when there’s no product ready, design your website to get the most of it and not to spoil the first impression.
Every SaaS big and small deals with conversion. You don’t know what’s your conversion rate going to be yet. You’ll work on it later along with improving your product. But what you know for sure is this – the more eyeballs your product reaches, the more paying customers you’ll eventually close. When you are just starting to work on your app, make sure to pave the way so your product gets noticed in the future. Think of SEO and content marketing in advance as it takes time for them to pay back.