9 Essential Tools You Need To Grow a Successful SaaS Business
At Ladder, we’ve worked with A TON of Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) businesses. Personally, they’re my favorite types of businesses to work with. Margins can be huge and return on ad spend (ROAS) is often much larger than in other types of businesses.
I recently published a post giving insight into the perfect (fundamental) eCommerce tech stack. Now it’s time to focus on SaaS businesses.
At a high level, here are the tools you need to set up your SaaS business for success:
- A tool to quickly build and test landing pages: Unbounce
- A tool to track all of your leads: HubSpot
- A tool to activate & retain users: Intercom
- A tool to track key events & fire tags: Segment
- A tool to analyze customer activity: Mode Analytics
- A tool to track your progress / updates on software: Asana
If you’re new in the SaaS space, and have your platform fully built out, trust us on implementing these tools into your arsenal. It’s only once you’ve done this that you’ll be able to control your company’s growth.
And beyond these, consider the following bonus tools:
BONUS: CLOSE YOUR LEADS:
- A tool to glue all apps together: Zapier
Below, I’ll detail exactly why we use the tools listed to grow SaaS clients’ businesses.
Which landing page tool should I use?
Unbounce | Price: $49/Month
Let’s start at the top of the funnel. You’re going to attract people to your software via different means, but you also need a way to convert them to customers. This is where landing page design and testing tools become invaluable.
What should your landing page say? Should it be short? Should it be long? Should it highlight pricing? Or instead focus on your value props?
Tons of questions. No answers. You won’t know until you run tests.
You NEED to be A/B testing different landing pages to see what converts people at the highest rate. Whether you are flexing the layout, the UI, the copy or the imagery, your landing page needs to convert as many visitors as possible — And the only way to get there is via testing.
Unbounce is awesome because virtually anybody can become savvy with it. You don’t need to know Photoshop, InDesign, or have the ability to code. None of that is required to succeed with Unbounce. Their software makes it extremely simple for anyone to create a high-converting landing pages.
In addition to not bothering your designers and developers for the creation and editing of your landing page, you won’t need to bother your devs for another thing: Tracking implementation.
The last key benefit of Unbounce is that if you are A/B testing 2 pages against each other, you can do that in just a couple of easy steps, and then you can configure the goal(s) you want to track as conversions — Whether that’s a CTA button click or a form submission. Unbounce will let you know which page is performing best with a confidence percentage.
Use it. It’s the best. And beyond that, their support team is excellent.
Which tool should I track my leads with? What’s the best sales CRM?
HubSpot | Price: FREE (CRM tool)
YAY! You’ve got demo requests. Now you need a way to keep track of them and convert as many of them as possible into power users.
At its very core, HubSpot is a CRM. It’s a tool to help you manage your sales contacts, and update them with new information and attributes to keep your entire organization (sales/marketing/account management) on the same page on who these contacts are.
With Hubspot you’ll be able to sort contacts in many different ways. Here are some examples:
- Users who have requested a demo but not scheduled one
- Users who have signed up as subscribers to your blog on a specific post
- Users who have visited the pricing page of your site and are subscribers of your newsletter
- Users who have clicked “learn more” button on your on-boarding email
This information empowers you to connect with the right people in the right way. This is where the beauty of automation comes in, and where workflows come to life.
For example, you can trigger an email workflow that fires when one of your “trial users” visits the pricing page. That email workflow can be a 3 stage drip campaign that prompts a user to hop on the phone with one of your sales reps to discuss Pro plans.
Once a user does upgrade to a Pro account, you can update the contact with that information, which would automatically take them out of workflows targeting “trial users.”
There’s an endless count of features available on HubSpot. But we’re staying focused on the CRM functionality, specifically for attracting and converting leads.
It’s an fantastic tool for those purposes.
Which tool should I use to activate & retain users?
Intercom | Price: $85/Month
Now you’ve got ACTUAL paying users! Let’s make sure they are handheld through the on-boarding process and beyond so that these new users become ACTIVATED.
FYI: “Activated” status depends on your business. For Facebook it was “user has added their 7th friend” — That’s when they noticed a higher retention of users. That “aha” moment when a user becomes activated is up to you to figure out.
Intercom is a CRM focused on helping you activate new and existing users. Think of it as a cross-channel messaging platform to help your users maneuver their way around your SaaS product.
For example, in the on-boarding phase, you may want to send users a Welcome Email from the founder — something that prompts the users to take their first important action, like “User completes profile”.
You could send this as an email directly from Intercom, as an automated workflow, but you could also message that user in-app. These first moments on a web app are often crucial for retention. Send the user a popup message that says “Hey! Welcome to our platform, complete your profile here to get started”.
You will not only be able to message your users via email and in-app all within the Intercom ecosystem, but you will also be able to analyze the performance of your messages and workflows with the user friendly “goals/objectives” configurations.
You can decide to call a workflow “successful” if:
- User logs back in
- User completes profile
- User refers a friend
- User upgrades to paid
You’ll be able to optimize your workflows to increase open-rates, and success rates. You’ll learn to speak with your users, and you’ll learn to retain them.
Intercom helps you do all that and more.
Which Analytics Tools should I use to track key events & fire tags?
Segment | Price: $100/Month
You can onboard your users using Intercom, but to understand how exactly your users are behaving inside your platform, you’ll need Segment. Segment has 2 purposes: Tracking key events & acting as a tag management solution.
Important note: Segment does require a bit of extra setup time. Unlike most of the tools in this post, you probably won’t be able to set this one up on your own. But their support team is there to ensure you can make the most out of the platform. Leverage them.
Let’s expand a little on the 2 purposes mentioned above:
Tracking Key events: Use Segment to track any actions that is important to your business. Example: HubSpot platform: “User Pays for Premium.”
Acting as a tag management solution: The events that you have now tracked need to be leveraged by other tools. For example (still HubSpot): Use Segment to pass a “conversion event” to AdWords / Facebook / Twitter when a user “creates an account”. Now when you’re in Google AdWords, you can immediately tell which keywords are driving the most “creates an account” conversions.
Here’s another use case, pulled from the Segment website:
Rdio, the multinational music streaming service, needs to track when users play songs, create stations, and upgrade their accounts, so the company can see how free customers are converting and identify the most popular artists to promote.
Previously, they needed to code the same events like “Played Song” slightly differently for every tool they wanted to use, on repeat for every page of their website and mobile app. Now, they use Segment for all their tracking needs. They track these events once with the Segment API, and then we translate and send the data streams to whatever analytics tools they turn on in our control panel.
Voilà! Their customer data populates in tools like Amplitude and Google Analytics. Their marketing team can reach out out to people that play songs daily but haven’t upgraded their accounts, and the product team can see how new features are faring to optimize accordingly.
Segment is powerful when set up properly. But hey, you and your team built an awesome SaaS platform, so you can definitely handle setting up Segment.
Which Analytics Tools to analyze data?
Mode Analytics | Price: $500/Month
Segment is your hub to communicate and pass key data to different platforms. Now you need a specific platform to analyze all the events that you’ve tracked — Think “Google Analytics for SaaS” but infinitely more powerful.
This is what Mode Analytics does.
Once the event data is passing from Segment to Mode, you can use the Mode report builder to:
- Set up charts & dashboards
- Build self-serve data tools
- Create custom data visualizations
You can also connect your data warehouse so all of your internal customer data can plug in. This lets you run queries across your lead and customer info, enabling you to make the right business decisions based on user activity and informing decisions throughout your organization. You can share reports via URL, email, or Slack to put data directly in the hands of decision makers.
Additionally, you can connect your marketing data via Segment Sources directly into Mode, and you have a 360 degree view of the customer: Where they came from; How they behaved down the funnel.
Which tool should I use to for project management?
Asana | Price: $10/Month
Using Segment and Mode Analytics, you will get a tone of hugely insightful data on how to improve your platform experience. These projects will be impossible to coordinate with your team via email. If you’ve ever tried this, you know; and if you haven’t, good!
Instead of using email, use the best project management tool out there: Asana. Asana helps coordinate your team on all of your projects and streamline communication.
At its very core, here’s a typical example of a way in which you’d use Asana:
- Marketer wants dev to make a change to the header section of the platform
- Marketer creates an Asana “task”, adds a description, attaches screenshots, and assigns it to CTO with a specific due data.
- Dev gets notified, and is able to see how this task (in terms of timing) fits into his schedule/workload.
- Dev adds comments on “task” to update marketer on progress.
- Dev marks task as complete.
The Asana UI is one of the easiest to navigate. And their support team is excellent in case you have any questions. Now you’re organised, ready to steam ahead on all of your projects and squash all bugs.
BONUS: CLOSE YOUR LEADS
There are a few tools to help you get more SaaS leads — those will be available in our upcoming “SaaS Growth Stack” post. But here are 2 bonus tools to help you CLOSE your leads.
Which tool should I use for email sales automation?
YesWare | Price: $25/Month
SaaS leads and demos are juicy. Though it totally depends on your revenue model, we’ve worked with many SaaS business where a qualified demo was worth up to $400,000 yearly.
A more high-touch approach is often needed to get these types of demos booked. Outside of referrals, email outreach will be one of your top growth avenues. Scrape the lists of all stakeholders in all companies that would need a software like yours — Then email them.
Use YesWare to automate that email process. Don’t spend lots of manual hours writing personalized emails, unless you’ve proven at high scale that works more efficiently than an automated setup.
With YesWare you can:
Set up different email drip campaigns to keep prospects engaged and never miss a follow-up.
Track email open and reply rates, link clicks, attachment opens and presentation pageviews. It’s all valuable information that will help you identify the best possible message for every step of the sales process.
You might be A/B testing 2 different cold email workflows — and instantly learn that your version B drives a 30% higher Open Rate. Turn off A, pick another challenger to B and optimize — it’s that simple.
Integrate with Gmail, making it extremely easy to use.
YesWare is key for sales. Give it a go.
Which tool should I use to get contracts signed?
PandaDoc | Price: $39/Month
Now that you got your demo booked after a successful email campaign setup via YesWare, you need to get your contract INKED.
Why do salespeople insist on sending PDFs and Word documents?
Your prospective client might have to invent a time-machine, jump back 20 years, walk over to Best Buy and buy a printer and toner cartridges, get the documents printed out, walk back over to Best Buy, buy a scanner, log back into their email, attach the file, and send it over.
How about no?
Get your deals instantly inked using PandaDoc. PandaDoc is an intuitive software platform that enables and enhances the creating, sending, and eSigning of transactional documents. Documents in PandaDoc are electronic, interactive, actionable, and feature-rich.
Here are the key features:
- Create quicker with reusable content: Templated documents let you immediately edit and send a prospective client a contract without any delay.
- Build interactive documents: Create documents that can be signed in multiple areas directly within PandaDoc.
Close faster with eSignatures: No need to deal with pen and paper. Electronic signatures are fully enforcable and contracts can go into immediate effect once a lead signs and closes.
Track after sending: Tracking the signature and opening status of a contract lets you see if there are any hiccups or delays in the contract signature process.
Which Web Automation App tool should I use?
Zapier | Price: $20/Month
Putting it all together. Soon enough you’ll have an expanding tech + growth stack, and you will want all of your tools to communicate with each other. Think “If this then that” systems.
It’s by far the best tool out there to manage integrations. Their support team is award winning and their technology is extremely easy to use.
With Zapier you’ll be able to set-up integrations like this:
- Send a Slack message to your Sales Director when someone requests a demo
- Send Facebook Ad “Form submission” contacts to HubSpot “Retargeting Workflow”
- Get instant background info on a new submission via Clearbit and attach that to HubSpot contact
All of this and an infinite number of other integrations without any developer support. As they say, “Zapier is the glue that connects more than 750 web apps”.
That’s the SaaS Tech Stack! Use the 9 tools I listed above to grow your SaaS business at a lightning-fast rate.