Lead generation is key to success for any company, but especially in the software-as-a-service (SaaS) industry. Of course, you need to retain customers, but without a steady flow of new leads, businesses will not be able to sustain their growth. Whether you're a venture-backed startup or a small, profitable SaaS company, you need to fill the funnel with as many qualified leads as possible.
The good news is you're not the first SaaS company to try their hand at lead generation.
Lead generation is all about best practices and pattern matching.
- Best practices: Some channels, like email marketing and conversion rate optimization work for nearly every business.
- Pattern matching: What works for mature SaaS businesses adjacent to yours will probably work for you.
This guide will help you sift through the noise and pick the best lead generation strategies to scale your SaaS business, based on real case studies and experience.
What are the best lead generation strategies for SaaS businesses?
61% of marketers say getting traffic and leads is their number one biggest challenge. SaaS companies are always on the lookout for new leads -- but the process of generating leads can be daunting. Below you'll find the best strategies to dominate your SaaS lead gen.
1. SEO Lead Gen
You've probably heard about search engine optimization, or SEO.
SEO is the practice of improving the ranking of a website on search engines. The higher the ranking, the more likely people are to find the website.
For SaaS businesses, SEO holds a special place. First, software is a very search-driven industry. People learn about software categories, compare tools, and get pricing information using Google search. As such, ranking for key terms in your software space enables you to engage huge swaths of potential clients. Second, SEO can be very profitable. A lot of bootstrapped SaaS companies invest in SEO and get the recurring benefit of free acquisitions indefinitely.
Most often, SaaS companies who succeed with SEO do it with an intelligent content strategy... that is, doing keyword research and creating long-form blog posts to attract the right readers to their site. I usually break the process of content SEO into four parts:
- Research keywords: and find ones that are profitable and long-tail. Look into comparison queries ("Salesforce vs HubSpot") and category review queries ("the best product for X").
- Write quality blog content: create blog content that answers the questions fully, with unbiased and informative long-form blog posts.
- Optimize, interlink, and optimize: as your blog develops and content becomes more robust, make sure to go back to older posts and update information (if necessary).
- Stay consistent: Many bootstrapped SaaS founders give up along the way -- they just have too much else to do. But remember, if you don't have leads, you don't have a business worth anything at all. 1% extra every day when it comes to content is a recipe for success.
Of course, if you can hire writers to help, do that. But make sure to edit their work for great quality.
Another way to scale content output is by using an AI writing tool like GrowthBar -- which actually writes content for you using GPT-3.
SaaS SEO is a strategy most everyone tries, but few pursue it to its full potential. It's worth an attempt.
2. SaaS Affiliate Marketing
SaaS businesses with modest budgets also love affiliate marketing. That's because it tends to be pretty affordable and scalable.
SaaS affiliate marketing is a form of marketing that rewards affiliate partners for driving traffic or sales to your SaaS platform.
The most common form of commission in SaaS affiliate marketing is a cost-per-acquisition (CPA) commission. In this type of commission, the affiliate is paid for every new customer that they refer to the SaaS platform. That means, you don't pay unless your affiliate partners drive sales.
There are a number of different ways that affiliate partners can promote your SaaS platform. Some of the most common methods include creating blog posts, creating videos, and conducting online reviews. So as a company, you need to arm your affiliates with all the information they need to create content and promote your service -- give them great images, proof points, and promo codes.
In order to really scale an affiliate program, you need to get potential high-value partners to sign up. Simply browse Google and YouTube and find creators that have an audience that fits your niche. Find their contact info and reach out. Then ink an affiliate deal. Use an affiliate marketing tool to track commissions.
I often have projects in which I reach out to literally hundreds of potential affiliate partners over one week sprints. It's a lot of work, but those relationships really pay dividends!
3. Google Ads
Google Ads is the paid advertising program offered by Google. Advertisers can create text, image, and video ads that appear on Google.com search results, Youtube and millions of other websites in their network.
Like SEO, Google Ads is a search-based marketing channel. The only difference is you pay per click. But still, Google Ads are a choice medium for SaaS marketers because you can get pretty strong conversion rates that justify the spend by bidding on high intent keywords. Plus, you can target certain geographic regions and device types depending on your offering.
Google Ads is also a great channel for running lead ads. Think of the types of downloadable assets, templates, or guides your audience might be looking for -- you can pay relatively low CPCs and get a ton of leads. Just make sure to use a lot of email marketing to nurture your leads to conversion after you capture them. Here's the process:
- Create a lead magnet: A lead magnet is a piece of content that's offered in exchange for contact information. It could be a white paper, an ebook, a guide, or a set of templates. Whatever it is, it should be relevant to your target audience and provide value.
- Promote your lead magnet: Yup, using Google Ads.
- Collect contact information: When someone downloads your lead magnet, ask for their contact information in exchange. This could be their name, email address, or phone number. The fewer fields the better.
- Follow up with leads: Once you have contact information, follow up with leads to see if they're interested in your product or service. Send them relevant information via email and see if you can convert them into customers.
4. Sales Prospecting
Sales prospecting is a process that identifies and qualifies potential customers for a business’ products or services. Prospecting is the first step in the sales process, and is followed by lead qualification, lead nurturing, and finally, lead conversion.
The goal of sales prospecting is to identify potential customers who may be interested in a business’ products or services, and to qualify them so that the business can determine whether they are a good fit for what the business has to offer.
The best way to prospect for new customers is to identify your ideal customer profile and then target your marketing efforts to reach these people. You can use demographic data, psychographic data, and behavioral data to identify your ideal customer. Once you know who they are, you can create marketing content and messaging that will appeal to them, and then use marketing channels to reach them.
Sales prospecting is a tried and true SaaS method that requires not much more than a LinkedIn account, an email account, and a software tool like Yesware. Procure a list from a reputable source and begin an email or LinkedIn connection email drip campaign. Then, connect and move customers past the consideration stage into a paying customer.
5. Conversion Rate Optimization
Conversion rate optimization (CRO) is the practice of increasing the percentage of website visitors who take a desired action, such as filling out a contact form or making a purchase. CRO can be used to improve the effectiveness of a website’s marketing, design, or usability.
There are many techniques that can be used to improve conversion rates, including:
- Conducting user research to understand how users interact with the website
- Identifying and removing barriers to conversion
- Creating user-friendly designs that are easy to navigate
- Testing different designs and layouts to see which is most effective
- Using persuasive copywriting to encourage users to take action
- Offering incentives or discounts to encourage buyers to make a purchase
- Tracking user behavior to identify areas where improvements can be made
- Using A/B testing to compare the effectiveness of different versions of a page
Use a free tool like Google Optimize to test and optimize your key pages -- like your pricing page, signup page, and checkout flow. Try changing calls-to-action, hero images and layouts in order to optimize your product conversion rate. Your lead generation will really thank you!
6. Host Webinars
Host webinars to help people learn about your software.
Webinars are a great way to educate potential customers about your product or service. And of course, they can also be used to generate leads and increase sales. That's why 93.5% of SaaS companies offer some sort of webinar. That's remarkably high.
Before you start planning your webinar, you need to determine its goal. Are you trying to generate leads, increase sales, or simply educate people about your product or service? Once you know its goal, you can determine the content and format of your webinar.
To generate leads, you'll need to include a registration form on your website that collects contact information from people who want to attend your webinar. You can then use this information to follow up with them after the webinar. I like to include a call-to-action for a recurring webinar on the homepage of a website. You can, of course, also run paid ads on LinkedIn or Google for your webinar.
Your webinar needs to be equal parts engaging and informative. As with content marketing, you need to spend the time mastering a topic and you need to deliver it in an understandable way.
Here are a few best practices:
- I like to title the webinar something with a datapoint from the conversation. For instance "How We Increased Conversion Rate by 27% Using this One Tool."
- Use email marketing aggressively to get signups for your webinar and ensure attendance with reminders a week, a day, an hour, and a few minutes before your webinar.
- I like to use informative first-hand anecdotes whenever possible. This builds credibility and makes the advice actionable.
- Let people know you have a freebie that you'll be giving away at the end of the webinar to encourage your audience to stay.
- Finally, you can also offer a discount to people who purchase your product or service during the webinar.
7. Email Signatures, Socials, etc.
Don't forget about the little stuff. Your SaaS company can use all the conversions it can get from any source. Make sure to put your company's information and link in your email signature. Use your social media – particularly Twitter and LinkedIn – to do a little thought leadership and social listening (engaging).
While it seems small, every acquisition adds up in the world of SaaS.
Of course, advertising rates have gone up significantly on Google and Facebook over the last several years, but remarketing still has a place in many SaaS marketers toolkits for the brand awareness value and (at a low spend) profitable acquisitions.
The key when remarketing is to lead with really strong creative. Use a marketplace like Dribbble to get professional assets created in jpg, png or HTML5 format. Test a few different remarketing audiences -- all site visitors, homepage visitors, and checkout flow visitors.
SaaS Lead Generation Companies
SaaS lead generation companies are businesses that specialize in helping companies generate leads for their SaaS products.
There are a number of marketing agencies that specialize in lead generation. The best ones will work with you to develop a holistic strategy based around one or more of the lead generation techniques above.
Benefits of hiring a lead generation company for your SaaS business:
- You may skip over some mistakes, particularly in scaling content with an SEO agency or by having an experienced group run your paid Google Ads.
- They presumably have extensive knowledge and experience in the field, which can help you solve business problems and free up workload, so that you can be the best SaaS founder/marketer you can be.
Of course, hiring comes with a price. Expect to pay a couple thousand dollars a month for an email lead generation agency or part-time SEO help. Agencies can also climb to 10s of thousands of dollars per month for large-scale Google Ads account management.
Sales leads are important for the growth of any business. They represent potential customers who may be interested in what you have to offer. It's important to generate leads that are high quality and likely to convert into customers.
There are a number of ways to generate sales leads. You can use online advertising, such as SEO, Google Ads, webinars, CRO, sales prospecting, affiliate marketing and more.
The good news is, you can do them all pretty affordably as a test. Then you see what works and scale or iterate.
SaaS marketing has been around for a while. Use these tried and true tactics and you will improve lead generation for your SaaS product.