A typical SaaS Marketing Funnel

SaaS businesses have moved on from being just a fad and seems to be the way forward now. Consumers as well as businesses are increasingly moving to the cloud and it’s not just ‘another option’ for businesses to offer a cloud solution. Product teams have now changed their mantra to be ‘mobile first’ and ‘cloud first’ which again is a step change from the stereo typical product development processes in the past.

With these changes, marketing too needs to adapt and be ready for the challenges and the opportunities that the SaaS world brings. Most SaaS businesses offer a subscription model that usually starts with a free trial for a limited time period. The idea behind offering a free trial is to get more people to ‘try’ before ‘buying’ which is an age old concept from the retail shop floors where the belief was that someone who tries on a product or service was much more likely to convert/buy as opposed to someone who didn’t.

A typical SaaS Marketing funnel consists of 4 stages:

-Get Found (Traffic/Web Visitors): This is the stage where you’d like your acquisition marketing to work at it’s best. The main goal is to get more eye balls on your site by convincing them to have a look at what you’ve got to offer. Tactics such as SEM, SEO, Social Media Marketing, etc…would help you spread the message to the right audience. You need to keep a close look at the type of traffic you’re getting to the site (Organic, Paid, Direct, Referral etc…) so that you know on a weekly/daily basis who’s coming to your site. You should also look at ways of building your brand and creating brand awareness amongst your target audience. Ideally you’d like to have a higher number of organic traffic and a lesser number of paid! Not just because organic is less expensive but mainly because organic converts better.

-Let them play (Trials/Sign Ups): Once you start getting a healthy set of visitors to your website, you need to convince them to ‘try’ your product out. This could be through a free trial for a limited time period. e.g. 30 days. The idea behind this is to let your potential customers get a feel of things without committing too much. (Try-buy approach) Even though they are not committing anything financially, they need to commit ‘time’ so that they could try things out before they buy.

You need to have a kick ass first use programme that spans across the product as well as your emails in order to help these trial users understand and use product better. By analysing product usage and conversion data, you should create a path for these free trialers using the most ‘stickiest’ features of your product. For e.g. In the case of QuickBooks Online, it could be their ‘online banking feature’ which helps their customers to save a lot of time. Whilst harping on a key feature such as this, you should also be looking at ways to get the trialist to use the product more during the trial phase and convince them that this is the right product for them. Sticky product features is one such way of convincing but also showing impartial reviews, offering limited time ‘buy now’ discounts and easy competitor comparisons would also help your potential customers to make their buying decision that much more easier.

-Convert (Subscribers): This is the business end of the game now. You have managed to get relevant eye balls onto your site and make some of them try your product out by giving a free trial for a limited time period. Now it’s time to convert these free trialists into paying subscribers. There are things you can test out here; for e.g. getting trialists to put their payment details upfront when they sign up for the trial. This means, you’ll start billing them automatically once the trial finishes. However, out of sight-out of mind might not be the best of strategies to get paid! Try to monitor the attrition rate of your subscribers who put their payment details upfront to see whether they stick around more than the others. Product related data could be your biggest friend at this point. By understanding various triggers and conversion elements, you could potentially create IPD messages (in product discovery) and also by understanding behavioural and motivational factors such as ‘saving time’ to ‘getting things done faster’ etc… The key is to instil the value of your product/service in your customers mind. A welcome call or a helpful call fired from your customer services team during the trial, could also be a great way to let the trialists know that help is at hand. Welcome calls have proved to be great conversion drivers in most SaaS businesses. By using tools such as Splunk, you could even trigger this call during the point of use. This might sound a bit freaky but imagine the face of your customers when they get a call from the help desk when they’re stuck!

Optimize: This is not a particular stage as such, but just something that you need to be constantly doing across all stages of your funnel. Conversion rates are key in any business because the more greased up your funnel is; higher the number of paying customers! At the end of the day, your product or service needs to generate a positive cashflow, your subscribers should have a longer LTV and your attrition rate should be low. In order to do this, it’s best that you look at the key drop off points of your funnel, fill in the gaps and understand the main conversion points such as the Visitor to Trial rate and the Trial to Sub rate. By influencing these rates, you’d be able increase the bottom line of your business without increasing the budget on top. A great way to monitor your marketing channels is though the EOP (earned-owned-paid) model. Try to always connect the bottom of the funnel to the top of the funnel so that you know you’re driving the right type of traffic that converts well. Quality of traffic is key to a healthy conversion rate.

Ultimately the product should be the hero, but there are things marketers can do to make their customer’s lives easier. As the founder of Intuit, Scott Cook always says, “your goal should be to change the lives of your customers so profoundly that they would never go back to the old way of doing things ever again!”