How To Develop SaaS Lead Generation Strategy To Grow Your Company in 2020
by Mike Khorev
Lead generation is the most important, and also often the most challenging aspect of any SaaS business. If you don’t generate leads, you won’t get new customers, and thus, your SaaS business won’t grow.
SaaS lead generation is also quite unique due to the nature of the business: in SaaS, you are not selling any physical product, and so your audience has more time to compare your product with other alternatives online. Also, the length of the SaaS life cycle can vary a lot, some can be very short, and some can be really long, which can complicate the lead generation process.
So, planning a proper SaaS marketing strategy is very important for any Saas business: you’d need to attract a lot of people to your SaaS website, capture their information and capture them as leads, and nurture these leads until they are ready to purchase.
In this guide, we will learn all we need to know about effective SaaS lead generation strategy in 2020. By the end, you can use our actionable tips to develop your own lead generation campaign and start generating more prospects.
Let us begin at the very beginning: the concept of SaaS lead generation.
SaaS Lead Generation
Lead generation, in a nutshell, is the process of introducing your business to strangers and converts them into leads or prospects. A lead, on the other hand, is someone who has indicated an interest in your brand/product/service.
In the SaaS industry, SaaS lead generation is the effort made by a SaaS business to attract more website visitors and capture their contact information (mainly email address). When a website visitor willingly provides their email information, they have converted as a lead or prospect.
The idea is that although these people might not be ready to buy immediately, they have shown an interest in your brand (by willingly giving their information). So, they might be looking for a SaaS solution in the future, and you’d have to nurture this lead until they are ready to purchase.
In general, SaaS lead generation consists of three core stages:
- Attracting people to your website
Before anything else, you’d need to attract visitors onto your website. It’s also possible to get the person onto other platforms (like your social media profile or an app), the idea is to get them somewhere where you can provide a form to capture their contact information.
However, a website that matches their needs and their search intent is generally the most effective.
- Engage and encourage them to take an action
This is typically done by engaging your audience with content (and keeping them as long as possible on your site) and then offer a compelling call-to-action (CTA) so they can convert into a prospect.
This is mainly done by offering a lead magnet: an attractive offer related to your content that can add further value for your audience. The most common form of a lead magnet is a gated content (a downloadable content like ebook or whitepaper that is related to the initial content), but we can also use other CTAs, as we will discuss later on in this guide.
- Convert visitors into leads
Your lead magnet and/or CTA should drive visitors into a landing page (or provide an opt-in form) which will capture their contact information. If it’s a landing page, you can also provide more detail into your lead magnet offers.
After you’ve successfully captured the required contact information (mainly email address), you’ve successfully converted this visitor into a prospect.
However, although the lead generation process is fairly simple, the details can be very complicated, as we’ll discuss in the rest of this guide.
Common SaaS Lead Generation Mistakes
Before we continue with our step-by-step guide to creating a lead generation strategy, let us discuss some common mistakes and misconceptions in developing a lead generation strategy:
Focusing on Quantity over Quality
While it might seem obvious to generate more and more leads, it can actually be counterproductive in the long run. Generating leads cost money, and nurturing these leads will also cost more money and time. As a result of this, generating and nurturing low-quality leads can be a major waste of your time, money, and resources.
On the other hand, when a lead has a poor experience with a certain solution, they might also tell this bad experience to other prospects and customers, which can hinder your future lead generation campaigns. A low-quality lead might actually convert, but they will also have a higher risk to churn.
Different businesses might also have different criteria to determine lead quality. The basic principle is, the closer the prospect is to your ideal audience (your buyer persona), the higher their quality as leads.
Also, your marketing and sales teams might have different definitions of “qualified leads”, and this is why we often differentiate between sales-qualified and marketing-qualified leads. In this case, make sure to bring your sales and marketing teams together so they can discuss their definitions properly.
In general, your sales and marketing teams should consider the prospect’s fit and interest. A higher fit means a particular lead more closely resembles your ideal audience (or buyer persona), as we’ve discussed above. However, even if a prospect is already a great fit, it won’t automatically mean they are interested in your product, and this is why it’s important to measure interest.
Measuring fit and interest will be directly related to our next point below.
Not having a full understanding of your ideal audience
One of the biggest and the most common mistakes in lead generation is ignoring the importance of identifying your ideal audience and buyer persona.
A buyer persona is a model, a profile of your perfect fictional buyer based on data and research. By properly creating a buyer persona, you can understand who your ideal prospects are, their behavior, their purchase habits, and so on.
A well-defined buyer persona is very important if you want to achieve success in lead generation—both in quantity and quality— because by knowing your audience, you can better create targeted content to attract and convert them.
So, do your homework: conduct your market research, study your competitors, and develop a proper buyer persona.
We have discussed how content is the core part of any lead generation strategy: we use content to attract prospects to come to our website or platform where we can capture their contact information.
However, no matter how good your content is, it won’t bring any value and won’t capture leads unless your audience can find this content. This is where working with SaaS SEO services or agency as the primary means to promote your content is extremely important. Simply put, if you ignore SEO in your lead generation strategy, you’ll fail.
In fact, SaaS SEO should be the foundational basis of your whole lead generation strategy from keyword research to optimizing your content to aligning your content with your buyer personas.
Fear of failure
No matter how well you plan and execute your lead generation strategy, there’ll always be room for improvement.
It’s very important to test everything and constantly work on improving your website, your content, your opt-in form, and any other elements of your lead generation efforts. It’s very important to realize (and embrace) the fact that you can fail in your lead generation efforts, and in many cases, being wrong in lead generation is far more valuable than being right.
Also, it’s important to be objective in your tests and trials: we often limit what we test in a way that will skew the data to help us reach a certain conclusion (circular reasoning), and in most cases this will be counterproductive.
So, it’s okay to be wrong, it’s okay to fail, what’s important is to keep improving and optimizing your lead generation strategy.
Looking at the wrong KPIs and metrics
One of the most common mistakes in lead generation and marketing, in general, is that many marketers are looking at the wrong metrics.
Before anything else, your team (or teams) must have a consensus on what a lead is and what a qualified lead is, as discussed above. Your entire organization must understand the objective of your lead generation process, and how to measure each of their performances according to these objectives.
For example, if the main lead generation objective is to capture email addresses, then we must measure the conversion rate for email newsletter sign-up. It’s also important to look at the number of return visits, which indicates that a lot of potential leads are coming back (and you should devise a way to capture these leads).
So, don’t underestimate data and information: define your KPIs and metrics, and set up a system where you can capture and analyze this data effectively.
How To Develop a SaaS Lead Generation Strategy
Set your Lead Generation Objective
Before we can start developing a lead generation strategy, you’d need to first figure out the objective(s) of your lead generation effort.
While you can have various objectives depending on your business goals, in general, your lead generation objectives must be:
- Specific: that is, your objective must be clear enough for your whole team and stakeholders. The easier they are to understand, the better.
- Realistic: it’s always better to have attainable, realistic goals. This is useful to maintain your team’s morale (and yours) by producing a sense of achievement. If you have a big objective, you can break it down into smaller milestones.
- Measurable: you should be able to measure whether you’ve achieved the objective by monitoring metrics and assigning KPIs.
To properly figure out your objectives, here are some key considerations you should have:
- What is it that you want to achieve according to your marketing and business objectives? List all possible objectives and their priorities
- Define the KPIs and Metrics for each objective. Set benchmarks and milestones for each goal to let you know that you’ve achieved this specific goal.
- Discuss and brainstorm all objectives with all stakeholders, to ensure that these objectives are agreed upon
- Decide the timeline of each objective. This is very important so you don’t spend too much time on your efforts and can adjust your strategy when necessary.
- Assess whether you have the resources (human, technology, financial) to achieve this goal.
With that being said, here are some common lead generation objectives you might consider:
- Website traffic: for example, increase website visitors by 1,000 per month by next February
- Generated leads: generate 10 marketing-qualified leads per month by next January
- Lead conversion ratio: the percentage of website visitors that convert to leads/prospects. For example, we can have an objective of reaching a lead conversion ratio of 2% by January next year.
- Social media followers: also important nowadays, for example, to increase LinkedIn followers by 100 next month
- Social media engagement: for example, having your blog posts shared at an average of 10 times in six months
- Email open rate and CTR: for example, hitting an email open rate of 30% and/or click-through rate of 10% by the next quarter
Obviously, these aren’t the only objectives out there, but they might inspire you in finding out the best possible lead generation objectives for your company, according to your marketing and business goals.
Let us move on to the next step.
Figuring Out Your Target Audience
Before you can reach your target audience with your lead generation efforts, it is very important to first specify who your ideal audience is. If you are a B2C SaaS company, then you’d need to figure out what kinds of consumers are going to need your solution or service. If you are a B2B business, then you’d need to figure out who are the ideal companies/organizations that might need your solutions.
For example, it might not be appropriate to target huge enterprises if you are a brand new startup (unless you have a really innovative/game-changing solution). Generally, you’d need to have big brands in your existing clientele before you can start aiming for these big potential clients.
Finding out the right audience is very important if in lead generation, and to do this properly, you’d need to have reliable data. Unfortunately, more than 40% of surveyed SaaS companies admitted that they are not confident of their abilities in segmenting their target audience.
Here are some common ways you can segment your target audience:
- By location/geography. Due to the nature of the SaaS business, this is pretty uncommon but is still possible
- Based on industry/vertical, pretty effective if you are a B2B SaaS business with a specific software product
- Targeting very specific companies (account-based marketing). This is a pretty effective approach if you are in a relatively narrow niche/vertical
- Based on the target audience’s online activities. Pretty common for B2C SaaS companies
And so on. This step can be very simple or very complex depending on your niche/industry. However, the key is to collect as much data as you can. You can do this via surveys, focus groups, interviews, competitive analysis, and/or other approaches.
Define Your Lead Generation KPIs
Based on the objectives you’ve defined above and your target audience, we should first define and start tracking our KPIs.
KPIs, or Key Performance Indicators, are essentially metrics to help you check your performance of your lead generation efforts and whether they’ve achieved their objectives. What KPIs you should observe would depend on your objectives, but here are some important ones to consider:
- Organic traffic
You can’t generate leads unless you have incoming traffic to your website, and organic traffic (traffic coming from organic search) is the best type of traffic for lead generation because they are already showing an interest (by actively searching for information).
The higher your organic traffic is, the higher the chance of your lead generation success.
No matter what your main objective(s) is, you need to know how many conversions are generated by your website. If your number of conversions aren’t as desired, then you might need to check the other KPIs on this list to figure out what went wrong.
However, don’t only analyze your failures. If you are learning a lot of conversions, then you should also examine what you are doing well so you can use this data for future success. Remember that even
- Conversion Rate
Obviously your conversion rate is related to the number of conversions on your site. Our overall conversion rate is the percentage of website visitors who convert into prospects. However, we can also measure the conversion rate of different pages.
Your ideal conversion rate would depend on many different factors, however, in most cases, we can consider 5% and above as a healthy conversion rate. If your conversion rate is too low, chances are you aren’t giving your visitors the value they need and remember that it’s likely that they are leaving your site for your competitors.
Check your pages as a whole, and identify areas where you could improve them.
- Average session duration
Average session duration is the average time a visitor spends on your site as a whole (or a specific page). If the session duration is low, your visitors might not find what they are looking for on your site and they might check out your competitors’.
Low session durations would usually affect conversion rate and are usually related to bounce rate and exit rate (which we will discuss below). However, if your page is fairly small with just a small amount of content, then a low average session duration is expected, and it could mean that your content is user-friendly (which can actually lead to high conversion rates).
However, if your content is long (say, more than 1,000 words), then an extremely low average session duration would mean that something is off. Check how you can improve their session duration and dwell time.
As you can see, average session duration is in most cases not a standalone metric, but you’d need to compare it to other metrics and factors on your site.
- Bounce rate
Another important KPI related to average session duration, bounce rate is the number of people that leave without visiting other pages of your site. Ideally, you’d want them to visit other pages on your site for a higher session duration so you’ll have more chance to convince them to convert. So, the lower your bounce rate, the better.
- Exit rate
At first glance, exit rate is similar to bounce rate, but it is only relevant to one page on your site. So, measuring the exit rate is important to determine your most popular pages and less popular ones (which might be bad for your conversions).
- Cost per lead
Also important. This metric tells you how much you invest to get one single lead, and this should include human resources costs, technology, advertising, and other costs you’ve spent to generate one lead. Measuring this is very important if you want to maximize the ROI of your lead generation campaign.
Developing a Working SaaS Lead Generation Strategy
In its most basic form, a lead generation process would involve the following stages:
- A stranger is attracted to visit your website. This can be done in many different ways: they might stumble upon your advertising, they might search for something and click on your content, or they might learn about your website on social media, among other ways. The stranger consumes your content and becomes a website visitor.
- A website visitor then clicks on your call-to-action, which can be a link, a button, or an image.
- The CTA would take this visitor to a landing page, which includes a form designed to capture their contact information. You’d offer something in exchange for their contact information.
- Once this visitor fills out a form with their contact information, they have been successfully converted into a prospect.
To summarize, a stranger comes into your site and turns into a visitor. This visitor would then click on a CTA that takes them to a landing page where they would fill out a form with contact information to get something valuable (your lead magnet). After this, they become a lead.
So, in creating a lead generation strategy, there are two key questions to answer:
- How would you attract strangers to your website?
- What kinds of lead magnets would you offer that might interest them?
We can use various promotional channels to answer these questions and put all of these elements together:
As we’ve repeatedly discussed above, SaaS content marketing is one of, if not the most effective way to attract strangers to your website and eventually to a landing page. The most common practice here is to provide visitors with free but valuable information, which is made visible via SEO.
A great thing about using content to generate leads is that it’s pretty versatile. You can include your CTAs anywhere in your content: at the beginning, in the middle of the post, at the end, and so on. Also, you can tailor your whole content to meet your lead generation objective and to align with your lead magnet offer. For example, if your offer is an ebook about SEO strategies, then you can write content that is also related to SEO, which would make your CTA and lead magnet highly relevant.
The more valuable your content is for your visitor, the more likely they are to click your CTA and convert.
Social media marketing
A great thing about social media networks today is that it’s now very easy to include CTAs in your social media posts. Although they aren’t as versatile as a website or a landing page, you can use the swipe up option on Instagram (if you have a business account with more than 10,000 followers), short URLs on Twitter, and other approaches as CTAs.
Social media is certainly where your audience is nowadays, and so it’s a great place to reach a lot of potential prospects.
This is a very important aspect of SaaS businesses: offering free-trials can allow potential prospects to try your SaaS product, and once they’ve registered on your free-trial program, you can nurture these free-trial registrants with additional content and offers to encourage them to purchase the full version.
Advertising and Remarketing
Your paid option. A key advantage of using advertising and remarketing (retargeting) campaigns is that you can generate results in a fairly short term compared to organic efforts. Make sure your landing page and what you offer are properly aligned with the promise in your ad, and make sure that the actions you want these prospects to take are clear enough.
While ads are very effective in generating results, they can be very expensive if you are not careful. So, the key here is to balance your ad campaigns with other organic channels (above) so maximize cost-efficiency and ROI.
Also known as word-of-mouth marketing, referral marketing is useful in various aspects of lead generation. Essentially, when a happy customer recommends your brand/product/service, there is a higher chance these people might become your prospects.
Your Lead Magnet
Here, our focus is on how we can convince our website visitors to click our CTA, fill our opt-in form, and convert into a prospect. This is where your lead magnet comes in.
A lead magnet is, in a nutshell, a valuable offer that you’ll give for free, in exchange for the site visitor’s contact information (typically an email address). After the visitor fills an opt-in form ( a lead generation form) with their contact information, they can access this offer.
A lead magnet can be anything as long as it’s valuable for your user. A discount coupon, for example, can be a lead magnet. In-depth content like ebooks, research reports, and whitepapers are also common lead magnets, and you can also offer free access to your software, and so on. Basically there are only two rules in creating a lead magnet:
- It has to be related to your product (and even better if it’s directly related to your content)
- It has to be perceived as valuable by your target audience, or else you won’t be able to attract them
Although the subject of lead magnet is pretty deep, here are a few tips:
- Keep lead magnets as targeted as possible
While it might seem like common sense to try to capture as many different people as possible, a lead magnet has to be very targeted to work properly. If your offer is not very specific, you might end up collecting irrelevant and low-quality leads, which can be a major waste of time and money.
So, make sure your offer is highly targeted, and as relevant to your business as possible.
- Alignment between content and offer
This is very important, use your content as a glimpse for your lead magnet. Tell your reader how your lead magnet can provide more value for them, and show it through your content’s quality. If they feel that your content is informative and valuable, they’d also perceive that your lead magnet will be even more amazing.
Provide an elaborate description of your lead magnet on your CTA, and list out the benefits your audience can get from your offer. For example, tell them how the lead magnet can help visitors improve their objectives clearly and directly.
Remember that a lot of people are offering ebooks and PDFs as lead magnets these days, and unless you can communicate that yours are going to provide immediate value, it won’t be so attractive.
- Design a lead magnet with repeated usage
The more a prospect interacts with your brand, the higher the chance they are going to convert into an actual customer. However, many people might opt-in for your lead magnet, interact it once time (if, for example, it’s an ebook), and they’ll forget about your brand the very next day.
We can certainly nurture and remind them via email marketing, retargeting campaigns, and other means, but if your lead magnet has repeated usage, you can dramatically improve its results.
For example, if your site is about digital marketing, you can offer a free guide on how to implement SEO in 30 days (with one actionable step for every day) while they can also use your 30-day free-trial period at the same time. This way, you have a full month to interact with and convince this prospect.
Lead generation is essentially about communicating your brand’s value to your potential prospects and convincing them to provide their contact information.
In today’s very saturated digital marketing, it’s obviously very tough to get noticed, and the key here is to provide immediate and (if possible) everlasting value with your content, your lead magnets, and your product, more than what your competitors are offering. You can also work with SaaS marketing consultant and SEO expert if you want results faster.
Also, a key to a successful lead generation is a proper understanding of your target audience and their needs, so you can offer something that is going to provide immediate value for them.
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