Lead generation is to Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) as the heartbeat is to human life. The reason is that studies have found more than a quarter of leads are ready to be customers. So, for SaaS businesses, the equation for growth and success:
Leads = Customers = Profits
But SaaS Lead Generation is different as well: you are not selling a physical product, so your audience can research a lot about your product alongside others online. So, SaaS marketers are data-driven: learning audience interaction and adapting quickly. As a result, lead generation is highly competitive.
With the right strategy, you can still win the game. B2B SaaS marketers who craft a proper plan can attract a lot of audience to their site, record their information as leads, and convert them into customers. Whether through SEO, content marketing, or any other strategy, your SaaS can generate a lot of qualified leads.
In this blog, you will learn the steps involved in developing a SaaS lead generation strategy to grow your business.
What is SaaS lead generation, and why is it important?
A lead is simply an individual who has expressed interest in your product or service in some manner, shape or type. They aren’t even ready to make a transaction yet, though, which means you’ll need to teach and nurture them so that they eventually become consumers.
In SaaS businesses, leads are generated by capturing website visitors’ contact information, usually their email address. So when a website visitor provides his/her email address willingly to your site, you have generated a lead. By providing their email address, the visitors show their interest in your products but are not ready to buy. With the contact information captured, you can nurture them to consider your brand when buying a product.
Lead Generation is vital for SaaS because a consumer’s buying journey has significantly changed. Flashy advertisements do not work for the modern consumer: more than half of buyers spend time online before contacting a brand for purchase. So you need to go beyond advertising to win the current picky customer. Through capturing leads, you can send personalized emails that can guide your leads to making a better purchase decision and, ultimately, buy your products!
Stages in a SaaS Lead Generation Process
Before we dive into the steps in developing a SaaS Lead Generation strategy, let us step into the customers’ shoes. Knowing their journey can help us create a strategy that can improve their experience.
In a SaaS Lead Generation Process, a customer goes through three core stages:
- Awareness Stage: In this stage, your customers find a challenge or a pain point and search online about it. Your task will be to make them know your SaaS business knows about their problem well enough. The most effective way to make them aware that you are an expert in the issue is through a website that matches their wants and searches intent. You can also use other platforms like social media or apps to achieve this task.
- Engagement Stage: In this stage, the customers know about their challenges and pain points. They are now looking for solutions. They will be searching for various solution providers before selecting a final one. Your task as a SaaS marketer is to engage your customers on your website so that they will remain there as long as possible and be convinced that your business is one of the best solutions. Developing content through high-quality blogs and videos are sure-fire ways to keep engagement at level highs.
- Consideration Stage: In this stage, the customers are convinced that your SaaS is a great solution and shortlisted you. But you are still some steps behind before they select you. Another SaaS may seem more enticing to them, and you can be forgotten! So you need to keep in constant communication with them. The way to do it is through gathering their email addresses, aka generating leads. Of course, a customer will not easily give his/her email address. So you give attractive offers in exchange for contact information. The offers can be ebooks, reports, white papers, or any type of valuable content.
Steps in developing a SaaS Lead Generation Strategy:
Now that you know the stages your potential buyers go through before purchasing, you can create a lead generation strategy for your SaaS accordingly. What you want to achieve through this strategy is to attract website visitors, engage them with content, and get their contact information to generate leads.
1) Foundation stage
Before we design strategies according to the stages a customer goes through, we need to set up some foundations for our approach. This stage, known as the foundation stage, will allow us to set goals and KPIs that will guide us throughout the process, keeping in mind our target audience.
– Setting SMART Goals
Like any plan, you need to set goals for your lead generation strategy as well. But not just any purposes. The goals need to be S.M.A.R.T: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Time-bound.
S.M.A.R.T. goals are essential as they guide everyone involved to create the actions necessary to achieve them. To know whether your SaaS lead generation goals are S.M.A.R.T or not, ask the following questions:
- What will you achieve by implementing the strategy? (Specific)
- What are you using as metrics to measure your goal success? (Measurable)
- Can the goals be accomplished? (Achievable)
- Do you have the resources to reach your goals? (Realistic)
- Is there a time-frame to achieve the goals? (Time-bound)
An example of a SMART goal for your lead generation strategy can be: Generate 200 leads by the end of Quarter 1 in 2021.
– Creating a target audience persona
Before you go out in the market to your audience, you need to determine your ideal customers. Otherwise, you will not be able to generate leads in the first place. Therefore, you need to segment your target market. Here are some common ways for SaaS B2B companies to segment their market:
- By location/geography
- By industry/vertical
- By specific companies: This is pretty effective if you are targeting a particular niche
- By activities
To filter your audience more accurately, create buyer personas. Buyer personas will help you give more explicit, more accurate insights on your target audience. In turn, you can reach out to prospects who are willing to exchange their information with you for future business, that is, creating leads!
It is best to make multiple buyer personas as even a specific target market will have people of different personalities, pain points, and aspirations. Just make sure all these personas share one common trait.
– Set KPIs
Getting a huge number of leads is excellent. But the opposite is precise when this vast number is not interested in your products or services. The good number of hours you spent on designing one lead generation will thus be futile. Here KPIs come to your help.
Key performance indicators, or KPIs, are measures that help you track the lead generation activities against the S.M.A.R.T. goals you have set earlier. They advise you which tactics perform, and which techniques need to be changed or strengthened. That can help you figure out what to do to improve your lead generation campaigns. As a result, you can generate leads who are interested in your brand (a.k.a qualified leads).
Some KPIs you will be interested in measuring are:
- Organic traffic: The number of site visitors who find your website by searching their questions and problems online.
- Traffic-to-lead ratio: The proportion of organic, direct, social media, search engine, referral, and paid traffic to your website converts into new leads. Ideally, you will want more people to visit your site, the higher number of leads you generate. But if the latter does not realize, you might need to conduct a website audit.
- Landing page conversion rate: The percentage of landing page visitors who convert into leads.
- Clickthrough rate: The number of people clicking on your offer present on the landing page or email.
- Bounce rate: The number of website visitors who leave your website without visiting other pages. If you have a high bounce rate on any webpage, you need to find out the reason.
- Cost per lead: Self-explanatory. The cost incurred to generate a lead.
2) Developing Awareness
Now that you have set the foundations for your lead generation strategy, it is time to generate leads. Let’s do it step-by-step using the buyer’s journey. So first, we create strategies that will develop awareness among your target audience.
The internet is filled with an enormous amount of content: from blog posts and videos to infographics and reports. So you need to be super-focused on topics your audience will care about. No matter how great your content is, it will not be of use if your audience cannot find it. Therefore, Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is the crucial means to promote your content.
SEO should be the foundation of your entire lead generation strategy: from keyword research to optimize your webpages. In short, if you ignore SEO, you can say goodbye to your business.
— Keyword Research
Keywords are the starting point of your customers’ journey that ends with them interacting with different pieces of content available on your company’s website. They are a single word or a string of words people use in search engines. Your aim in keyword research is to find keywords that will help you rank high in the Search Engine Results Page (SERP) so that your target audience can find your content quickly and interact with them.
The first step is keyword research is to list possible keywords your target audience uses. Observe critical terms used by your audience, your competitors, and your industry. See social media conversations around your brand and industry, competitor content, and search engine suggestions.
The next step is to select keywords that will help you rank high in SERPs. Use keyword research tools like Google Keyword Planner, SEMRush, or Moz. Select keywords that have the following features:
- High monthly search volume (at least 50)
- Long-tail keywords
- Competition level (the lower, the better)
- High domain authority
Most marketers stop at this stage. But as a SaaS marketer, you know you need to go beyond the usual. You now need to find the exact phrases and questions asked by your audience using the keywords. Use sites like Quora and Answer the Public, where you can gain insights on common issues and problems asked by your target customers. Create content answering these questions and topics to capture leads.
— On-page SEO
In addition to including keywords and exact search phrases in your content, you need to optimize your webpages and landing pages for SEO traffic. It works as well: A survey found B2B marketers considered SEO a source of high quality leads right after search engine advertising.
For on-page SEO, you need to use meta tags in two significant places:
- Title Tags: The title tag of your webpage will tell search engines what to display in search results. Keep it within 180 characters.
- Meta Description. Meta description tags are the other important factor for on-page SEO. Make sure it is within 160 characters and contains a keyword. Meta description tags are what makes or breaks for on-page SEO in most cases.
— Website speed
You know how impatient everyone is nowadays. So if your website takes more than 3 seconds to load, you can lose both a potential customer and your search engine rankings. Even a millisecond improvement in site speed can impact your rankings, showing how important website speed is for lead generation.
To check your website loading speed, check out Pingdom. If your website speed is very low, use Google Analytics to find out webpage problems and then fix them.
— Mobile friendliness
People use mobile for online searches more than they use desktops. So you need to ensure your website is mobile-friendly. Pick a mobile responsive theme for your website if you are doing the web designing all by yourself.
– Awareness-Developing Content
Through SEO, you guarantee that your audience will find you. Your next job is to ensure that your audience will stay on your website and interact with it. To do that, you need to create some awareness of developing content. Some accessible content of such type are:
Videos are now the most popular type of content. It also generates a lot of leads: One study found that product explainer videos made 33% more leads than other types of content.
Videos help to develop trust with your audience. People feel more at ease in doing business with a company that they can see and hear from. It is also the best type of content for most customers who prefer audio-visual tools like videos and images over text.
Some types of videos you can experiment with are:
- Explainer videos on product or process
- Product demo
- Customer testimonials
You can also experiment with video length and platforms: Youtube, LinkedIn (where it is getting very popular), blog posts, or Twitter. To improve your lead generation, add a relevant call-to-action to your video.
— Quality Blogs
Blogs are one of the most potent content to generate leads. They give SaaS a platform to establish their authority in a niche by sharing their knowledge to solve some of their customers’ most pressing problems.
But of course, there are thousands of blogs out there. So you need to create blogs that are over the top. Remember, you are competing with a lot of other SaaS brands out there.
Use the following checklist to determine the quality of your blog. The higher the score, the better.
For quality blogging to be a useful lead generation tool, consistency is the key. Ideally, you post blogs three times a week. This way, you can keep your audience engaged with appropriate content.
Also, make sure to add Call-to-actions at the end of your blogs.
— Guest blogging
Guest blogging (meaning voluntarily writing blogs for a third party brand) is another excellent way to generate awareness for your SaaS. In an industry-wide survey, Ahref discovered that the majority of SaaS still use guest blogging to drive traffic to their websites and raise awareness as part of their lead generation campaigns.
Guest blogging is thus a meaningful way to grow organic traffic and, at the same time, develop your authority. When choosing where to guest blog, keep the following things in mind:
- There is an overlap between the target audience of the publishing company and yours.
- The publication company has a higher domain authority.
- There is an overlap between the topics you generally write and the topics written in the publishing company website.
- MOST IMPORTANT: Ensure quality. Just because you are writing for someone else, does not mean you will compromise on quality.
– Traffic generation
In addition to SEO, there are other ways to generate traffic to your website- both paid and organic. Utilizing these ways can help more potential customers visit your site and increase the number of potential leads. Some of the most essential traffic generating methods for SaaS lead generation are:
— Social Media Marketing
Social media gives you the chance to connect and interact with customers on a personal level. Promoting content and sponsoring ads on social media can thus provide a great source of generating leads. In a study done by Content Marketing Institute, more than 90% of B2B marketers said they preferred distributing content on social media over other platforms. This survey indeed indicates the power of social media for generating leads!
The social media channels you use mainly depend on the target audience. However, most marketing experts will tell LinkedIn is the best social media site for SaaS startups for lead generation. The reason: LinkedIn is a site for professionals and the users are actively looking for companies to do business with.
— PPC Campaigns
Paid ads, or pay-per-click (PPC) advertising, is the best way to generate paid traffic. It gives you faster access to your audience than organic traffic as the latter often depends on user interaction. Paid ads also help you pinpoint your target audience: paid ads on search engines help you target users based on search intent, and social media paid ads to help you target based on behavior and interests.
Paid ads, as their name suggests, incur costs. So you need to make the best use of it. Once potential customers click on your ad, make sure the landing page contains a clear CTA and a hard-to-resist offer.
The best strategy for paid ads is to take a full-funnel approach: run different ads based on the buyer’s stage in the customer journey.
— Google Adwords
Google Adwords is one of the useful paid traffic tools to generate successful leads. Although it may be a bit expensive for SaaS startups, the investment is worthwhile: Through Google Adwords, you can display your ads to the vast user base of Google’s network.
Through careful planning and keyword research, you can create paid ads on Google Adwords that will be worth your money!
— Influencer Outreach
Potential leads are busy researching SaaS products. Expert recommendations often help their research more than not. Therefore, reach out to influencers whose authoritative voices can help your brand engage with a broader audience. Such voices can help you get leads and speed up the conversion process by advocating for your product(s).
Use webinars, trade forums, and even social media for influencers to promote your brand. Do not only target those influencers who belong to your software niche. Reach out to those who represent your ideal customers as well as these influencers are closer to your buyers on a personal level and command the much-needed authority.
— Referral Marketing
There is no doubt among marketers on the importance of reviews and testimonials from satisfied customers. Prospective buyers often refer to customer testimonials when researching for a product or service.
Besides promoting customer testimonials, you can utilize the power of satisfied customers to generate more leads effectively. Ask for referrals from customers who have solved their problems and got success from using your product. In exchange, you can give them discounts and other incentives.
To track the leads, you generate through referrals, you can provide custom URLs for these customers. You can offer a commission to the customers whose references got you, new buyers.
3) Lead Generation
This stage is the meat of the entire strategy-making process. Here, you persuade your website visitors to click the Call-to-Action button and fill out the opt-in form. The result: A lead is generated! And to convince your visitor, what you need is a lead magnet.
A lead magnet is a great offer you’ll send for free to the website visitor, in return for their contact details (usually an email address). Website visitors can access this offer after they an opt-in form (a lead generation form) with their contact information. Examples of great offers qualifying as a lead magnet include ebooks, research reports, whitepapers, and free access to the software.
To be a lead magnet, the offer must have two conditions:
- Related to your product offering and content
- Perceived as valuable by your target audience
In this section, you will get to know first about the three effective types of lead magnets: gated content, free trial, and webinars. These three lead magnets will be the content you will offer. Later, you will know how to present the offer in exchange for the visitor’s contact information.
– Gated Content
Gated content is the most popular type of lead magnet. Gated content is a type of content that is so great that you can charge money from visitors wishing to access it. But instead, you are offering the content for free in exchange for an email address. The results: Leads are created!
In the minds of customers, great content for free instead of paying with providing an email address only in return is a win! This way, gated content can increase customer’s trust in brands and thus be popular.
Some great types of gated content are:
- White papers
- Research papers
- Case Studies
- Video series
- Templates (like spreadsheets)
To win with gated content, ensure that your new leads can access the content immediately. You can do this by sending an email containing the link to the material directly or provide the link as soon as they click the CTA button.
Another critical consideration for gated content is that your visitors know precisely what they will be getting. Saying to potential leads that you will offer a video series on content marketing strategies is more effective in conversion than just saying you will offer a series on content marketing.
– Free Trials
Free trials are a powerful lead generation strategy, especially for SaaS businesses. The reason is that free trials allow visitors to try out the service for themselves and make the decision. As a result, the ones who decide to purchase are confident about your product and stick with your brand for a long time.
Free trials work great for buyers in the consideration stage of the journey. They are not sure whether they will buy your product or not. You will also have no insight into what they will do next. Giving free access can thus help remove uncertainty.
There are three ways to provide free trial:
- Free trial: Users can access all the program features, either for a limited amount of time (like 3-months) or for a limited number of users and accounts (like three users only).
- Freemium: Users can access some features for free, but for other functions and upgrades, they need to pay.
- Demo/quote: Users request a demo where you customize the product to their needs. It is a standard route for SaaS brands with expensive products. It also helps in lead nurturing (discussed in the next stage).
Webinars are now used by more than half of marketers. They are a win-win for both customers and the marketer. Customers get access to a workshop or tutorial that gives them the solution to a problem without paying a dime. On the other hand, a marketer can convert 20 to 40% of the webinar attendees into qualified leads. The marketer achieves such incredible results by solving any objections and questions customers have during the webinar and demonstrating its use or service. So it is a great lead generation tool for any SaaS.
The topic for your webinar should be something relevant to your target audience. You might be tempted to only conduct on current issues. Such issues may be appealing, but you need to consider the long term as well: if your webinars are on evergreen topics, they will continue to drive traffic for a long time, even if you forget about them.
But the most significant caveat when hosting webinars as a lead generation strategy is to maintain the audience’s attention. Studies show that only 40 to 50% of registered users attend the webinar, and the number decreases as the webinar goes forward.
To retain attention and thus increase the effectiveness of webinars, here are some tips:
- Provide the offer at the end. So that attendees will stay longer for receiving the valuable content.
- Mention the offer only at the end. Visitors will leave the webinar and come back only at the end.
- Send multiple reminders: People will forget about the webinar after they register. Send them a reminder a day and an hour before the webinar to raise its attendance rate.
- Utilize scarcity: When people know that the webinar is for a limited space only and it will not be recorded, they will show up earlier and stick till the end.
– Landing Page
Gated content, free trials, and webinars are content to lure visitors into providing you with their contact details. These offers are just one half of your lead generation stage. The other half concerns how you will present the proposal. The answer is through landing pages.
The landing page, or squeeze page, is the page that lets the audience get the lead magnet by merely providing their email address. The page can be accessed from a paid ad, a social media post, link in a guest post, a link in an email, or the top or sidebar of your website.
The visitor will have only two options: either opt-in or leave. So landing pages are what makes or breaks the lead. Creating a useful landing page is a must for any SaaS marketers wishing to capture leads.
A great landing page has the following features:
- Clear and formatted for easy reading
- Provides reasons behind the offer with testimonials
- Clear CTA with an easy-to-fill form
Pop-ups can be a convincing lead generating alternative to landing pages. But they can also be seen as irritating by the audience as well. The best ones are those that are displayed when the visitor behaves in a certain way. This way, you can specify and target visitors who are more likely to convert. Some of these behaviors are:
- Extended time spent on a website or a specific page.
- Intending to exit the page
- Clicking a specific link or button
Landing pages or pop-ups are what will decide the lead generation process of your SaaS website. So if you want to take two things from this section, let these two strategies be those two.
4) Retaining Leads
We could have stopped at the last stage and say the job is done. But the reality is far from different. A site visitor providing his/her email address just expresses interest in buying your product and not any intention. Therefore, you need to go the extra mile to convince your leads to buy your product when it comes.
Lead nurturing comes to play at this stage. The standard definition of lead nurturing is to create and maintain relationships with buyers at every step of the funnel. Although the definition suggests every stage of the funnel, nurturing after capturing leads is more effective as you can send personalized content directly to your leads’ inboxes. Even studies confirm it: A survey by Genius.com found that two-thirds of buyers are influenced in buying a product due to receiving constant communication from the brands.
Ways you can nurture leads include:
– Email drip campaigns
An email drip campaign is a series of emails you send to a lead after opting-in to your lead magnet. The emails are scheduled beforehand and in fixed intervals: 1,3,7,14, or 21 days (whatever works for you best).
A visitor converts to a lead to avail the gated content offer. So selling them immediately is a massive NO for them. And remember- you are in the SaaS business where churn rate is very high. So if you give them an option to leave you, they will.
What you need to do, instead, is to build a human relationship with them. Email drip campaigns are precisely the right way to make the relationship. Through these campaigns, you offer educational and practical tips to your leads. Leads, in turn, know the value of your company, and you can become a trusted expert on your topic of expertise. They may convert into a devoted customer down the line.
To improve customer relationships with drip campaigns, make the emails easy to reply (i.e. do not send from a no-reply address). You can then foster two-way communication that will help you know your prospective customers’ problems and questions.
An even better tip: customize your campaigns based on your lead: have one campaign for those who signed up for gated content and another campaign for those who registered for a webinar.
– Live Chat
Live chats are to a SaaS company like store assistants are to a physical store. They enable your company to answer customer questions and direct them to helpful content. You can also point them to lead magnet and eventually earn new leads!
But most importantly, you can have real-time conversations with your potential customers that can unearth their pain points and better understand their problems.
Live chat has a customer satisfaction rate of 92%! So it is indeed one of the best lead generation strategies out there.
Live chats are great. But you may need a lot of people if multiple visitors are asking there. So a viable alternative is a chatbot.
With chatbots, you can customize answers for your most asked questions and point your visitors to specific web pages where their problems are best answered.
Intercom, HubSpot, and Acquire are some chatbots that you may want to try out for your SaaS website.
Today’s SaaS market is pretty competitive. It is even difficult to be seen by potential customers, let alone capture a lead. But with the right strategy, you can attract visitors, engage them, generate leads, and finally turn them into profitable customers. Follow the steps above, and you can see an improvement in your SaaS’s lead generation. You can also work with a digital marketing consultant to help you navigate the entire funnel journey and provide you with the appropriate strategies.