SaaS Demand Generation: How to Gain Exposure for Your Startup

SaaS companies tend to be innovative. They create solutions for new problems, wrap existing services in new packages, and approach industries with new perspectives. It’s great, but it can be hard to sell when nobody’s heard of what you’re selling yet. 

That’s where SaaS demand generation comes in.

What is demand generation for SaaS companies?

Demand generation comprises all marketing efforts that are meant to generate awareness and interest not just in the product you offer, but also in the problem it solves. Demand generation differs from lead generation in that its primary goal is to educate people on what you do and why that matters to them, while the primary goal of lead generation is to capture the contact details of potential customers.

In other words, demand generation aims to create more demand for your product. This, in turn, may lead to an increase in leads.

Why is demand generation for SaaS important?

Let’s face it: cold outreach is a pain. If you have solid demand generation strategies, your ideal customers will hear about you, get interested, and come to you instead. If cold outreach is talking to prospects one-by-one, demand generation is broadcasting your message to the right audience for maximum effect.

1. It generates qualified leads

It allows you to reach a large group of people on a continuous basis and automatically filter out those who don’t resonate with your brand. Demand generation doesn’t just help you gain more leads, it helps you gain marketing qualified leads.

2. It increases your organic traffic

When you generate interest in your brand, people will look you up to see what your SaaS is all about. That means an increase in website traffic and following from that – if you have a great product and great website copy – an increase in organically obtained leads.

3. It boosts customer trust

New SaaS companies are popping up all the time. By being present in all the important conversations within your industry, you’re reminding existing customers of your authority and decrease the chance of them running off to try the newest shiny object.

3 stages of demand generation

Discovery: creating brand and product awareness

Discovery demand generation campaigns are aimed at getting your brand known and educating customers on how you can help improve their current processes, For SaaS companies, visibility in Google plays a crucial role in this, but there are other ways to get your product in front of the right audience as well.

Organic search

Strong SEO is crucial for a SaaS company. From a clear website structure to fast loading pages, high-quality backlinks, and optimized blog articles: you need it all if you want your target audience to find you easily in Google.

Need help putting together your SaaS SEO strategy? Get in touch to discuss how Flow SEO can help you rank.

Paid advertising

Paid advertising can get you in front of your target customers instantly but it usually takes a lot of trial and error (and budget) to get it right. Defining your audience, crafting the right ad copy, and creating well-converting landing pages are just a few pieces of the puzzle.

On top of that, you keep paying for every click. That’s why many startups use paid advertising to fuel fast growth and then move on to putting more time and effort in sustainable organic traffic

Networking and event presence

While not possible right now, being present at niche-specific events allows you to connect with your target audience more deeply. You may not reach as many people there as you would with a well-written article, but you’ll be able to engage in conversations and learn more about people’s questions and pain points.

You may even get the chance to talk to existing customers and gather valuable product feedback.

Industry groups and forums

If your ideal customer hangs out in LinkedIn groups, Clubhouse rooms, and on forums, make sure you do too. Don’t join as a brand but decide who on your team will take on the task of “spokesperson” to engage with potential customers and showcase your SaaS’ expertise in its field. 

Be careful, though: this is all about being helpful, not about being promotional.

In-house advocates

People listen to other people. While you need to secure the social media handles for your SaaS, consider tweeting and sharing product news from personal accounts as well. The founder might seem the most logical person to take on this role, but maybe you have an in-house copywriter who’s also great on social media.

Make sure you create fans among your employees just as much as among your customers and you’ll add an extra demand gen tool to your kit.

Influencer marketing

While the term has gotten a bit of a bad reputation recently, influencer marketing still works great when done right. Ask a big blogger or another influential industry expert to try your product and, if they like it, find a mutually beneficial way for them to promote it to their audience on a consistent basis.

They might love it so much that they’ll share your product with their audience for free but consistent promotion will likely require setting up something like a sponsorship or affiliate program.

Guest blogging and podcast appearances

Guest blogging and giving podcast interviews aren’t just great ways to generate backlinks for your SaaS, they also allow you to get the word out about your product in a natural way. You get a chance to show people you know what you’re talking about, generating trust in your brand at the same time.

Activation: capturing and converting existing demand

If you’ve done a good job at creating demand for your SaaS, prospects will find their way to you. It’s nice to see all that traffic come in, but your work isn’t over yet. Getting the right people to notice you was step 1, now you need to turn them into SQLs and, eventually customers.

Have excellent website copy

The texts on your SaaS site are crucial. Whether people land on the homepage, check out your plans or click over to the FAQ, the information they get needs to capture their intention, answer their questions, and make them take action.

Offer a free trial or freemium model

Don’t make people choose between all or nothing. A free trial or limited free plan is a great way to get people to make a first risk-free commitment. Once they do, you can add them to your email funnel. Provide tips and guidance while they’re trialing your product and nudge at all the extra benefits your paid plan has.

Create signup incentives

Not everyone in your target audience is ready to buy straight away but you’ll still want to capture their email address so you can stay in touch with them. Try creating a signup incentive like a whitepaper, a massive study, or a checklist to give them a reason to subscribe. Alternatively, you could create a free tool that prospects can use after they’ve signed up.

For an example of the latter, check out Wordstream’s Adwords Grader tool.

Keep putting in the work

To stay top of mind with target customers who aren’t ready to buy yet, you need to keep talking to them so you can convert them when they’re ready. While you can do so via all the channels you used in the Discovery stage, you should now have two extras tools at your disposal: email and retargeting.

Email marketing has the highest return on investment of all marketing channels, giving you $38 back for every $1 you spend on it. And once you’ve captured a prospect’s email address, you can send them targeted drip campaigns based on their behavior and keep them in the loop about your product whenever you want.

Even if someone hasn’t given you their email address, you can still target them with specific ads once they’ve visited your website. Both Google and Facebook Ads have a retargeting option.

Growth: conversion rate and user experience optimization

You found target customers, you’ve told them about your SaaS, you’ve gotten them to your website, and some of them have turned into customers.

Now what?

  1. You make sure you keep the customers you have.
  2. You improve what’s working and fix what’s not.

The former can be done by giving existing customers the best possible experience. Going into user experience optimization would lead us too far from the core of this article, but Acquire has a great guide on how SaaS businesses can improve the user experience you can check out.

And when it comes to optimizing your SaaS conversion rates, CrazyEgg has a detailed article.

How to measure the success of your demand generation efforts

To know whether your demand generation efforts are paying off, you need to keep track of some key metrics and compare them against your goals. Note that a lot of these metrics correspond to the metrics you should be tracking to measure results for your lead generation campaigns. That’s normal since the goal of your demand generation campaigns is to generate interest among your target customers so that they hopefully, later on, become leads.

Confirmed MQLs

If your messaging is on point, the majority of your leads should be MQLs but you can’t assume they are. Instead, decide on a few criteria that establish a lead as an MQL to be able to measure what percentage of your incoming leads are qualified.

For example:

  • every inbound lead…
  • that in some way engaged with content on your website…
  • and that you have confirmed fits your ideal customer profile.

Funnel conversion rates

How many of your MQLs sign up for a free trial and become SQLs? How many of those turn into customers? Track conversions at each stage in your funnel to know what works and what needs tweaking. 

While we’re entering the field of lead generation here, the quality of your leads and thus also your conversion rates depend largely on the quality of your demand generation.

Cost-per-lead

Knowing your cost-per-lead is particularly important when you’re spending money on advertising to generate awareness. Changing just the smallest thing in a campaign can have an immediate effect on your ad spending. If you monitor things closely, you can adjust when needed and avoid paying more per lead than usual for weeks at an end.

Cost-per-acquisition and close rate per channel

Calculating your cost per acquisition allows you to know how much it costs to generate a sale through each of your marketing channels. Once you figure that out, you can double down on those that are working well, and improve on or even drop the ones that aren’t.

That being said, cost shouldn’t be the only determining factor for investing more into a certain channel. If your content marketing cost-per-acquisition, for example, is high but content marketing at the same time generates the highest percentage of conversions, you might want to look into optimizing your processes rather than cutting back on this channel.

Lifetime customer value

While the lifetime value of a customer is affected by many things – your customer support performance and the quality of your product, among others – it also says something about how well-targeted your demand generation efforts are.

If you manage to reach, interest, capture, and convert the perfect customer for your product, they’ll stick around much longer than someone who doesn’t quite fit the profile.

Start generating interest today

When done right, demand generation helps you create brand awareness, generate qualified leads, and turn those into customers. It even helps you decrease customer churn. Go over the stages listed in this article to figure out where your demand generation efforts might be lacking.
Not getting enough organic traffic? We can help with that. Get in touch to discuss how we can help your SaaS get found on Google.

Author: Sofie Couwenbergh

Sofie is an SEO-savvy content strategist, consultant, and writer. She helps brands generate more leads and keep customers engaged through clear, no-fluff website copy and in-depth articles like the one you’ve just read.