If you ask any startup what their biggest challenges are, marketing is going to be one of the top answers.
Because, as a startup, you likely have a modest marketing budget and very limited public awareness of your brand.
Of course, the primary marketing objective of any business is to generate sales. But you first need to find your audience and tell them who you are and what you do. Then, you need to convince consumers to trust you. This is the purpose of a marketing channel.
To identify the best marketing channels, think about what you do and who you do it for.
As a business-to-business (B2B) provider, you deliver software as a service (SaaS) to other businesses rather than the general public. But unlike individual consumers, business customers are much less likely to be swayed by emotion. They don’t make impulse purchase decisions and take more convincing to convert. They also “hang out” in different places, so you’ll need to select your marketing channels accordingly.
Just like you won’t find your average Joe at a SaaS conference, your business buyer probably isn’t shopping for products in Instagram Reels. Plus, while some B2B SaaS companies provide more general enterprise-management products, others service a very specific niche.
The best marketing channels for B2B SaaS startups will put you right in your target customers’ crosshairs without breaking the bank. Then, as your income grows, you can increase or expand your marketing channels.
Let’s take a closer look at your options:
In this article
1. Your Website and Social Media Pages (and Mobile App)
For a B2B SaaS company, your website is your virtual shopfront. It’s your base of operations, where potential customers will come to see you and your product. It’s also an ideal marketing channel.
Here, you can showcase your products and establish credibility by sharing case studies and client testimonials.
Additionally, your website is a platform from which you can tap into other marketing channels, such as content marketing, free trials, and search engine optimization (SEO). (More on these below.)
Because your website is a form of owned media—i.e. you don’t have to pay to advertise on it—it’s a highly cost-effective marketing channel, ideal for your fledgling company. In order to be an effective B2B SaaS marketing channel, your site needs to be visually appealing, informative, and easy to navigate.
Your website needs to be easy to find online, too. You’re operating in the tech sector, and SEO needs to be one of your biggest marketing strategies. This will ensure that when potential customers search for your brand or product, you’re at the top of the SERPs.
You also need to ensure that your website is optimized for mobile use. Today, more people access the internet using mobile devices than desktops. You need to ensure your mobile user interface (UI) is user-friendly and the user experience (UX) encourages engagement and seamless interaction online.
Your social media pages are excellent places to establish brand awareness. Aside from providing a bi-directional space for customers to interact with your brand, social media allows you to target very specific customer profiles and obtain detailed analytics about how your marketing efforts are performing.
What’s more, you can set up a business page for free, and social media ads tend to be more affordable than those offered by traditional media. Just be sure to select your platform with care. Consider your target audience. For example, business customers are probably more likely to take your offering seriously on LinkedIn than on TikTok. Do your homework to find out which platform is best for you.
“Before you build your SaaS marketing strategy, get to know your customer inside and out.” – Laurel Stewart, VP of marketing & growth at Victorious
Additionally, if your budget allows, a mobile app for your SaaS startup would be a great platform for your marketing efforts. Obviously, if your SaaS offering is specifically designed for mobile, then an app is essential from the get-go.
2. Search Engine Optimization
Since 44% of shopping journeys now begin with an online search, you’d better make sure that your site shows up in those top few search results. You have the option to buy a top spot using PPC ads (pay-per-click advertising), which may be a worthwhile investment for a startup competing with hundreds of more established websites.
However, organic search results inspire far more trust than paid ones (which are marked as “sponsored”). This is why SEO is so important. If your site is optimized for Google’s search algorithms, you’re more likely to rank highly in the search results without having to pay for it.
SEO is a fairly complex endeavor, involving everything keyword and backlinks to how fast your site loads and how long visitors stay on your site, so it’s best to consult an SEO specialist for optimal results.
Keyword research and backlinking are two primary elements of SEO, and you can start to work on these right away.
Backlinking (or link building) essentially involves having other reputable sites link to your site on theirs. This lends credibility to your site, which will ultimately boost your search ranking. It’s a long-term strategy that requires you to convince these other sites to link to yours, which may be a bit of a challenge if you’re just starting out. However, it can be done. Start by reaching out to your clients and asking them for links—you can offer to link to their sites in return to make the arrangement mutually beneficial. You can also contact industry blogs and ask if you can write guest posts for them, which will include links to your site.
Speaking of blogs, these are an excellent way for B2B SaaS startups to boost their keyword strategy, which is another way to optimize a site for search engines. By using high search volume keywords in your blog posts, you increase your likelihood of showing up in searches for those keywords.
3. Content Marketing
If you haven’t yet heard the phrase, “content is king”, it’s a good thing you’re hearing it now. Content marketing is one of the leading marketing channels across all industries.
In a market saturated with competition, consumers expect to experience value even before they make a purchase. With so many free versions of SaaS products out there, you need to convince your target customer why yours is worth purchasing.
The answer lies largely in content.
With quality content, you achieve three major objectives”
- You add value to your audience (usually in the form of information).
- You establish yourself as an authority in your field.
- You attract users (via search) who may not even have been looking for your company.
Some of the most popular forms of content marketing include:
- Video tutorials
- Journal articles and white papers
Some types of content require more money or expertise to create, so you’ll have to bear this in mind when deciding which to use. At the very least, you should have a blog on your website to help improve your site’s search rankings.
The type of content you produce also depends on your target audience. Consider which format is most likely to resonate with your customers as a B2B SaaS startup. Then, focus on providing content that adds value and helps to establish you as an authority in the field.
4. Industry Events and Public Speaking
According to a 2023 survey, in-person events are still among the most effective B2B marketing channels. 60% of B2B marketers aimed to utilize this channel this year alone.
For one thing, in-person events provide an excellent opportunity to network with key industry players and engage in good old-fashioned word-of-mouth marketing.
Industry events also allow you to position your SaaS startup as a credible contender in your field. Even if you aren’t yet in a position to host your own event, simply having a stand at a SaaS conference is a great way to make your presence felt.
You’ll make an even better impression if you can book a spot as a speaker at one of the events. It’s a brilliant way to establish credibility and put a face to your brand, both of which are essential to building consumer trust.
SaaS and B2B events aren’t the only gatherings you should consider attending. If you service a niche industry, you should definitely be on the lookout for conferences within that field. For example, if you provide accommodation booking software, then events in the travel and tourism industry are a must.
Believe it or not, email remains one of the most effective marketing channels, whether you’re a B2B SaaS startup or any other kind of business.
What’s more, email is one of the cheapest marketing channels available for B2B SaaS startups.
Just remember that not all email marketing campaigns are created equal. You need to get your hands on a list of email addresses of potential customers who are most likely to be interested in a product like yours.
It’s possible to purchase email address lists, but you can generate your own list of quality leads via other marketing channels like surveys, quizzes, competitions, and free trials.
Once you have your address list, you need to create an email that catches your customer’s eye and inspires action. Since everyone’s inbox these days is stuffed with unread promotional messages, the most important element of your email should be an attention-grabbing subject line. If you can get your prospect to at least open your email, you’ll have a foot in the door. Consider enlisting the skills of an experienced conversion copywriter to ace those email subject lines.
To keep that footing, your email should be personalized, entertaining and add value. Make your prospect feel seen by sharing information of interest to them, and sweeten the deal by offering a free trial or other incentive to visit your site.
Just make sure there’s a well-optimized, engaging landing page to welcome them when they get there.
Email is also an excellent channel to nurture relationships with existing or former clients. An interesting monthly company newsletter accompanied by personalized promotions is a winning way to keep them coming back for more.
6. Industry Listings & Ratings Sites
If a business is in the market for SaaS that creates custom online forms to automate workflows, collect data, and manage payments, they’ll likely head to Google, where they’ll search for “best online forms tool” or something similar.
A page of results will then take them to various articles and directories listing the top providers of the service they’re looking for.
If you’re one of those providers, you’ll want to be on that results page.
Statistics show that 17.8% of consumers use directory websites to find a provider, making them a valuable marketing tool. Plus, being in an industry directory makes your SaaS B2B company easier to find (lead generation), and it also helps you to build backlinks for SEO, enhances brand recognition, and provides social proof to foster consumer trust.
Here are a few of the leading SaaS directories:
7. Competitions & Free Trials
We’ve already pointed out how consumers expect value before they even purchase. Moreover, businesses expect to be able to try before they buy. So, as a B2B SaaS startup, you’ll need to offer free trials of your products.
Aside from allowing prospects to experience how good your product is and how well it integrates with their operational requirements, a free trial is a chance to build goodwill and makes the idea of investigating your offering more appealing to potential customers.
Competitions are another great way to sweeten the pot in your B2B SaaS marketing efforts. You can run these on your website, via social media, and in email newsletters. They are a great way to draw in potential leads and encourage retention.
“For SaaS, everything is marketing, and marketing is everything because it’s more about retention and ongoing relationships.” – Corey Haines, head of growth at Baremetrics
Takeaway and Bonus Tips
This is by no means an exhaustive list of the B2B SaaS marketing channels. Some other valuable channels to explore include:
- Surveys and quizzes
- Referral and affiliate Marketing
- Client Technology Integrations
- Traditional media, like TV, radio and billboard ads
The bottom line is that the ideal marketing channel for your SaaS startup will suit your budget and objectives while also finding your ideal customers, wherever they are. If you make the most of your chosen marketing channels, you may find yourself on next year’s list of B2B SaaS companies taking the world by storm.