After months or years of development, your software-as-a-service (SaaS) solution is finally ready. Now you just need to find customers.
So you put up a website, attend a tradeshow, and produce a video. Then you host a webinar and post to a blog. On top of that, you toss in a bit of search engine marketing and prepare a couple of press announcements.
You could call this an "all of the above" customer acquisition plan.
But it might just be random acts of marketing.
Poor connections, poor results
Though the individual elements may be executed well, this shotgun approach to customer acquisition usually doesn't produce much in the way of results.
You end up with an attractive website, a beautifully-produced video, and well-written blog. Unfortunately, you don't end up with lots of paying customers.
That's because the individual elements are not connected and don't fit into a logical process. They don't move a buyer step-by-step toward a purchase.
You might generate lots of visibility and web visitors, for example, but unless there are elements in place to capture contact information from the visitors, all that web traffic doesn't mean much. Unique visitors, by themselves, do not generate revenue.
Or maybe the website is, in fact, capturing contact information. But there's nothing in the marketing plan to cultivate those leads and convert them into qualified opportunities and buyers. In that case, you've collected an impressive list of contacts, but no revenue.
Or maybe the tactics in place are effectively leading prospects far enough through the process that they actually purchase your solution. But there's nothing in place to retain these paying customers. So you end up with lots of customers that go away after a few months.
Why does this happen?
These kinds of gaps in the process happen all the time and it's very understandable.
By the time they're ready to go to market, companies have spent lots of time and money building their SaaS solution. They're proud of what they've built and eager to tell the world about it. And they're in a hurry to start selling it.
So they just starting "doing marketing stuff." There's lots of scrambling to put up a website, get out emails, crank out press announcements, post videos, and do whatever else seems like it might be a good idea.
Some of these might actually be good ideas. And I'm all in favor of trying different tactics to see what works and what doesn't. (See "There is no marketing magic bullet.")
But companies really need a plan in place before they start executing on all these tactics. Otherwise all that activity is a waste of money.
That's money no company can really afford to waste, especially SaaS companies. The website, email, webinar, video, tradeshow and whatever else seems like a good idea costs money now that they need to earn back over time. That's how the SaaS business model works.
Step back and put together a plan
When it comes to marketing, resist the urgency to "just do something... anything, and let's do it ASAP!!"
There's a better way.
Start with a plan. Specifically, put together a plan that meets three criteria:
- Make sure the individual elements fit together. For example, if an email campaign is intended to drive visitors to the website, make sure there's a way to capture contact information from those visitors.
- Cover all steps in the customer acquisition and retention process. Don't focus exclusively on programs that generate leads, but neglect tactics to convert leads into customers. Don't work hard to acquire paying customers, but forget about programs to retain them.
- Match up with your prospects' behavior. If your customers look for your kind of solution at tradeshows, for example, go to tradeshows. If they don't use Facebook to evaluate solutions, don't spend time with Facebook. To know how customers buy, it's best to ask them. (Call me if you need help.)
For most SaaS companies, it shouldn't take more than a few weeks to put together a workable plan. It's time well spent.