When it comes to SaaS, marketing is key, and there are many examples of SaaS from companies that really know their marketing, and have their niche thoroughly carved. Aspiring SaaS providers are often at a loss to determine exactly how to best present and market their service, be it advertising or sales plans.
In truth, the best way to determine these things is to look at the SaaS providers who did it right, and learn from them. Society has always worked this way, with individuals learning from the innovations of the past and building on them, and this is the key to progress as a whole.
So, let’s take a look at 3 examples of SaaS providers who did marketing right, one from each basic demographic (gaming, business and casual), and see what it is about their marketing and sales plans that works so splendidly. Let’s also look at some mistakes they’ve made along the way, and learn just as much from those.
For Business – SalesForce
SalesForce is a pricing and product cataloging system for various scales of business from individual to enterprise in size. Designed to track multiple pricing records, opportunity lists and purchases, SalesForce is modern answer to older CRM and merchandising software, designed to work with the new cloud and SaaS platforms and mentalities of the new millennium.
SalesForce offers a level of customization and modification that rivals even tried and true databasing systems like Access and Platypus, but provides the security only a cloud service could hope to provide, as well as outstanding data integrity.
Where SalesForce got their marketing model right was in designing multiple account types that allow for pricing depending on the scale of business that will be using it. They offer at least three, basic, professional and enterprise editions, each one a little costlier than the previous.
Of course, each one offers more levels of customization, programmability and functionality, which will motivate businesses to upgrade their accounts as they grow and the need for this functionality arises. Tiered marketing like this works remarkably well for business software, and allows a wide range of business demographics access to the same software, giving them only as much as they need and can afford at any given time.
Their mistake, however, is in how arbitrary the features available from one tier to the next are, with no real logic to which ones allow what. They seem to be addressing this though, but let us learn from this mistake and have some logic to this scale in the future.
For Gaming – Steam
There’s a lot to be said about Steam, and reviewers of SaaS platforms almost always include it in positive lists for one reason or another … and yes, there are good reasons for this. Steam is the pinnacle of well-designed gaming SaaS, not just in how it works, but how its marketing is designed as well.
Given that Steam is a gaming deployment platform, rather than a game studio itself, it handles marketing in two directions, both for developers and for consumers, and both models are pretty brilliant.
For consumers, Steam offers one-time purchases as well as free to play games, DLC systems and per-play models, and which model is applied is often at the discretion of the consumer. A gamer may choose to buy the game outright, play it in a crippled form for free, or pay for specific amounts of time playing the game. They allow the users to try the game before making a decision, either way. They have also announced that in the near future, an ad-powered system will be implemented for many of their games as another alternative.
For developers, they offer flexibility, charging a small licensing fee to be listed in the primary games list, or allowing free access to the indie pages, with small percentages of fees taken for each purchase. This gives developers chances to get their foot in the door where they otherwise could not.
Steam’s interface is a bit bulky, and their open model for developers has issues with letting a lot of really bad games into the indie pages. Perhaps some minor reduction of freedom there is wise.
For Social and Casual – Google Drive and Plus
Google is the king of marketing, and nobody really disputes this. Google’s clever ad-driven systems allow for anyone of any economic bracket to access their cloud-powered Drive and their Plus social networks at no cost to them.
At the same time, Google is a great platform to earn ad revenue with, via the AdSense system they offer to producers of content such as blogs, Tumblr and Reddit accounts and YouTube channels, matching Steam’s bidirectional marketing plan, with a non-gaming flavor.
For casual and social SaaS platforms, Google is on the top of examples of SaaS systems that have marketing down. Ad-powered free access is really the way to go here, rather than subscriptions or pay-per-access, which only seem to work for business models that have the capital to justify such purchases and continued expenses.
Google could learn to pay more attention to their UX metrics, as their redesigns of Gmail and YouTube have repeatedly been panned by critics, yet they persist in tinkering with them, worsening the problem.
These are the top examples of SaaS that got marketing right, but if you look around, there are many more to learn from, both from their good ideas and their calamitous mistakes.