It seems to be a very popular topic, as every week I get recurring requests to talk about how to market your software. I have colleagues that have taken this sort of public reaction (which they get as well) as a bad sign – one meaning that the future of SaaS is in the hands of people incapable of marketing it.
I however see a different cause for this reaction. I see it as a very positive sign of continuing new interest from more people, looking to make SaaS as viable as possible, and therefore expanding its community, gaining it weight and gravitas. Of course people will have an ongoing interest in how to market this stuff, just as people will continually be figuring out new and improved ways to implement the technology. It’s an emerging trend.
So, let’s talk some more about how to market your software. I’ve talked quite a bit about this, but there’s always more to say. See, I learn new things every day like everyone else, and there’s no end to new things I can share, as others share with me.
So, let’s look at some simpler, less obscure strategies to aid in marketing SaaS, things that are not so alien to anyone who’s done traditional marketing in the past.
#1 – Publish or Perish!
White papers are actually a very constructive marketing tool. Sure, for the general consumer public, it seldom works for a lot of industries, but you’re not selling a soft drink or a car. You’re selling tools, the products of science to smartly solve real problems in professional life. This means you are targeting distinguishing people who are very realistic (while still emotional beings) in their expectations and questions about software.
White papers are an educational tool, one meant to outline the problems faced in a scenario which inspired the proposed solution, as well as the theory, application and statistical results of said solution. It’s a no fluff explanation of “here is why we built this, here is how it works, and here is our real world data showing that it succeeds well”. It may sound cut and dry – and it is – but ask any marketing guru what the power of published research is, and their eyes will glimmer as they tell you a story or two.
#2 – How Many Roads?
There are many marketing channels available to the distinguished software publisher, especially in the modern digital world. Once, there were limited channels to reach out to a demographic, such as ads and signage, expensive televised or radio broadcast commercials, and the outreach through conventions, symposiums and other gatherings. That was it, there was nothing else.
Today, it’s a different ballgame. The new journalism movement, that which is called the blogosphere, is an excellent way to adapt the white paper theory we talked of before, into a directed and precise marketing tool as well.
Publishing articles about related topics to your product, such as the types of issues it tries to solve, or the like, in a journalistic and genuinely informative manner, works absolutely. SEO marketing is a powerful way to legitimately attract the attention of those faced with the problems you wish to solve, so that they may be made aware of your solution.
Some people say nasty things about SEO and its integrity, but they’re just jealous they didn’t think of it first. Use it – your competitors will!
#3 – The Best Things in Life are Free …
Yeah, free accounts are something to consider. Now wait, sit back down for a second, and let me explain!
When your product is launched, especially from scratch, you need to cultivate a user base and a community to back it up, and to lure more into its folds. How do you do this? If the power of marketability depends on a user base, but the user base must form by bringing in said customers to begin with, you have a very annoying cycle to overcome here.
Free accounts can solve this. Upon launch, or even somewhat before official launch, start a fierce campaign of free, limited invitation free accounts, and offer free accounts to new paying members who recommend others. Build the user base. Use ads in the free accounts to cover overhead if it’s that bad, but build your user base, and worry about gross profit later.
Trust me on this one, everyone.
So, as I said, if you want to learn about how to market your software, there’s a lot to teach, a lot to learn and a lot yet to be figured out. This doesn’t even scratch the surface, so expect to hear more out of me in the future on this topic. A lot, lot more.