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⚡ How we’ve marketed our SaaS on a tight budget

As many of you guys are struggling with the marketing of your product, I’ve decided to share some strategies that helped me grow the ARR of our SaaS from $0 to $ 450,000.00 within 12 months by doing purely online marketing.

Before we start: This is not a step-by-step marketing guide. This is just a collection of marketing tips and a general overview of what has worked for us in the past.

Small reminder: Stop fine-tuning your MVP and invest more time in marketing! Tech founders tend to work on their product for too long and postpone the marketing part week after week.

🤔 SEO, Social Media, or Paid Ads?

It’s all about trial & error. During your online marketing journey, you will have ideas expecting great results, that will fail miserably. On the other side, there might be ideas not even worth trying, which will deliver game-changing results. So, make sure to try out as many different marketing strategies as possible, and monitor them carefully. There is no one-size-fits-all solution.

✅ What did work for us?

  • SEO (in the long run)
    • By focusing on just a few relevant keywords we were able to rank on the first page on Google
    • Comparison Blog Posts, like “Top 10 XYZ Tools in 2022” performed pretty well
  • Google & Bing Search Ads
    • We are bidding on relevant keywords and on our competitors names
    • By improving our Google quality score and page speed, our CPC went down, so we could display more ads with the same budget
  • Youtube Ads
  • Facebook + Instagram Ads + Retargeting
    • Ad designs that worked well:

      • Screenshots of our SaaS with a big headline describing the problem we solve:

      Untitled

      • Short videos that describe our features by simply animating a bullet list
    • 50% of our Facebook + Instagram ad expenses go into retargeting ads

    • Facebook Ads with longer primary texts (more than 6 lines) performed better than one-liners

  • Offering a free introduction call via Calendly + Whereby at any point
    • About 80 % of the users who booked a call made an upgrade to a paid tier later on
  • Offering a very cheap BASIC tier with limited features
    • About 70% of the users who have initially signed up with our BASIC tier, made an upgrade to our PRO tier later on
  • Sending out automated emails to users who have signed up and ask them, if they need any help. The goal here was to remind them about their sign-up and get them to re-engage with our SaaS
    • E-Mail designs that don’t look like a newsletter and more like a real direct e-mail performed much better. Many users directly replied to these mails and asked questions

❌ What didn’t work for us?

(This does not mean, that you should avoid these strategies. It might be different in your case. You should just try out everything that makes sense to you.)

  • Social Media (organic)
  • LinkedIn Ads
    • The Ads are very expensive on LinkedIn
  • Referral Programs
  • Cold Calling
  • Cold E-Mailing

💡 Some general advice

Target different user groups independently

Let’s say you have a B2B product, that can be used by many different types of businesses. In that case, you might have a better chance of selling your product if you target them independently. You could do this by creating special landing pages and ads for the different industries.

  • “Survey Tool for Retail”
  • “Survey Tool for Restaurants”
  • “Survey Tool for Construction Workers”

Customers prefer tools that are specialized to their own industry over general “allrounder” solutions.

Organic rankings on the first page (SEO)

Let’s be honest: If you are not on the first page of google, you most likely won’t get a relevant amount of clicks through search engines.

Untitled

If you really plan to get to the first page of google organically, you should be aware, that this might take a lot of time and effort depending on your competition. So, think twice and analyze your competition before you start your SEO journey.

In case you want to head for the first page of Google, I recommend you to find some relevant keywords to your product with a high search volume by using the AdWords Keyword Finder and to really focus on these keywords within your website copy and URLs.

Having a relevant keyword in your domain is another option to boost your Search Engine Ranking heavily. You could try getting an additional domain (besides your main domain) including a relevant keyword. For example, if your product is a SaaS that handles invoicing, you could get an additional domain called invoice-generator-app.com. If you can’t find a .com domain, you can also go with a new TLD like .app. (Don’t put the exact same content on your secondary domain, otherwise, Google will penalize you. Try out some content variations.) In the last step of your signup flow, you can redirect the user from your secondary domain to your main domain.

Publish a dictionary on your website (SEO)

Publish a custom dictionary on your website with terms that are related to your product. This might be helpful for some users and therefore boost your search engine ranking in the long run.

Valuable content on your website (SEO)

Create content that is valuable to your ideal customer. Explain common topics or issues in your blog which are related to your product. Google will find out if the users are enjoying your content and subsequently bump up your ranking.

Our best ranking blog post is a comparison between all employee-scheduling SaaS tools (on the German market), which also includes our own product. Of course with us on the 1st spot 😉

Untitled

Getting quality backlinks (SEO)

By offering some of your clients a coupon or another special benefit in exchange for a backlink on their website you can push your domain ranking. But be careful to not make a bad or scammy impression on your first users.

Exact matching keywords (SEA)

In case you decide to spend money on Google / Bing paid ads (SEA), go with exact matching keywords. By doing that, you will have much better control over where your money goes. You will be able to focus on the right keywords and also reduce your costs. When we used broad keyword matching, we’ve wasted a lot of money on rubbish keywords that weren’t relevant for us at all. And don’t forget to use the Keyword Finder in Adwords, before bidding on new keywords.

Diversify

Did you find a strategy that works for you? Great! Now keep it up, and look out for more ways to attract new customers. Don’t settle with the first thing that works out. There might be a different marketing channel that has a much better conversion rate. You have to diversify your marketing and go with multiple paths simultaneously. You should design new ads and copies regularly.

Free Tier

Offering a free version of your tool will attract lots of potential customers, who wouldn’t usually sign up in the first place. A big part of these users will never upgrade to a paid tier, but they might spread your product organically through friends and co-workers. Getting people to talk about your product and using it is a major goal in the beginning.


I hope I could give you some helpful advice on your marketing journey.

Let me know if you got any questions :)

  1. 4

    Well written post, thanks!

    What you wrote about sending more "basic" looking email automated emails asking if your users are stuck or need help sounds super great to me. I know I personally have never responded to any of the "fancy" automated emails I get after signing up for a product. I usually never even open them when they are from a "no-reply@" or "marketing@" type of emails.

    Trying to build and foster that more personal relationship with your users, or early customers, seems like a winner. Making your emails seem more like "hey I'm a real person, you're a real person. Anything I can help you with?" seems awesome!

    1. 2

      Yes, I have the same feeling when I receive those basic automated emails. We use the e-mail address "david@aplano.de" for our automated stuff :)

      1. 1

        Have you tried or found any difference in responses from using that "personal" email as the sender, vice using it as the "reply to" email? Or have you not tried that?

        1. 1

          We did not try that. We just compared the email design and content

          1. 1

            Gotcha! Thanks for the info 😊

    2. 1

      I spent a few weeks a/b testing different wordings and checking out people on LinkedIn before sending that welcome email, by hand. My reply rates definitely went up and I could gather valuable feedback.

      If people realize that it is not automated, they are much more willing to also reach out. Have not found a way yet though how to personalize automatically with data from LinkedIn yet.

      (Obviously, this only works if you don't have tons of signups per day, or you can't send them all manually.)

  2. 2

    Hi David, this is an amazing post. So great to see that you’re putting marketing first. I just tweeted it so hopefully others follow your lead.

    You seem to have your marketing strategy and plan very organized. What tools are you using to manage all of this, such as planning tasks and evaluating which channels are most effective?

    I’ve asked this question to several founders who are struggling with marketing and most of them reply that they don’t have a good tool to keep all of their marketing efforts centralized and on track. (I’m currently building a tool to help with this)

    1. 2

      Hi Stephen, thanks for sharing the post and for the feedback.
      As we are a small team of 3 founders, we did not look out for special tools, to keep all of this on track. Whenever we make a new decision to try out a new strategy, we always create a calendar event for about 2-3 weeks later, so we can review the strategy and compare it to other strategies from the past.

      But I can imagine that a special tool for this might be handy. :)
      Let me know when it's available!

      1. 2

        Guys, test and experiments are necessary. However 80% will not work long term. Finding the three main channels that work for your business and then double down, is what works.

        1. 1

          Agreed. Double down and optimize its performance with user data.

  3. 1

    Hey there,
    Thank you so much for sharing such a wonderful piece of information with us about SaaS and google paid add I am also searching for the same kind of information because I want to Promote my website through google paid adds check my website https://dermalfillers2000.shop/en/14-mesotherapy

  4. 1

    Hey there,
    David, this is an amazing post. So great to see that you’re putting marketing first. I just tweeted it so hopefully others follow your lead. You seem to have your marketing strategy and plan very organized. What tools are you using to manage all of this, such as planning tasks and evaluating which channels are most effective. https://www.tommypet.com

  5. 1

    Really useful stuff. Thanks for sharing

  6. 1

    Through experience... this guy David has it figured out. Nicely written.

    1. 1

      Thank you for the feedback!

  7. 1

    Thank you for this great post, David!

  8. 1

    Thank you so much for your effort - (1) This is all inbound, with what I guess as a (<2%) close rate. You did spend money! And what is not described here is your spend budget. Ranking on the first page of Google is not achievable with 90% of businesses due to keyword competition. And what is the first page "only 6 non ad links"? ( so not really reality for most) What did you spend on failures? No one is successful the first time around and wastes money on failure while learning what works? And last - this was not for a USA audience. Meaning I see this is not a product sold in the USA. (where the competition is much, much less)

    1. 1

      Hi Gates! Thanks for the comment. Yes, we've spent money, but we started little by little. We did not get any investment, so we just had to use the money, that we got from the customers (and around $3K that we've put in from our own money initially).

      90% of businesses? I don't agree. There are so many different SaaS opportunities out there, where you don't have those big companies bidding high amounts.

      You don't have to spend 1000 $ on your first ad. You can start with smaller amounts and just look at the result.

      Yes, as I mentioned, we made these experiences on the German market :)

  9. 1

    Thank you for sharing!

  10. 1

    This is awesome, David! Thank you so much for summarizing all this in one place.

    1. 1

      Thank you for the feedback mate!

  11. 1

    Great post, @gregorian! I really liked reading what worked / didn't work for you. It's very relevant to us at Rulebox because we've been agonising over marketing for so long now - and we absolutely tend to want to build 'just a bit more' first, so your warning is very useful to us!

    Well done 🎉

    1. 1

      Thanks a lot for the feedback! :)

  12. 1

    thanks @gregorian for the post
    will take some notes
    currently I'm wotking on Nolly.io and will use some of your tips on my marketing strategy

    1. 1

      Nice to hear that :) Good luck!

  13. 1

    Great post David. I got a lot out of it😎

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