Let’s talk advertising.
More specifically, SaaS advertising. Because while there’s plenty of content online breaking down how to create basic advertising strategies, most of them are either geared towards B2C or eCommerce businesses, or they just mention some general best practices.
SaaS advertising is its own unique species in the marketing world. You need to reach a specific type of decision-maker, or sometimes even a team of decision-makers, and they will have a different buying process than standard consumers.
And unlike traditional B2B services like agencies or consultants, you aren’t trying to get them on a call for a free consult or pitch deck; you need to get them to a free trial or ideally a demo to show them what your tool can really do for them.
So today, we’re going to go step by step through the process of how to create the ultimate SaaS advertising strategy that will work for your business.
What Counts as SaaS Advertising?
For the purpose of this post, let’s define SaaS advertising.
We will be talking about paid advertising strategies designed to increase traffic, brand awareness, lead generation, and sales for SaaS companies. This will include pay-per-click (PPC) platforms, but it also will look at sponsored placements on blogs, software review sites, and more.
What does not count as SaaS advertising is any “organic” marketing tactic or platform? This includes SEO, content marketing, organic social media marketing, and conventional email marketing. While these are all downright crucial parts of SaaS advertising, they’re in a separate category from advertising so we’ll approach them separately.
Keep in mind, however, that it’s always important to have both organic marketing and paid advertising campaigns running simultaneously. Paid advertising will get you immediate results fast (and often at scale), but organic marketing can play a vital role in attracting and converting customers on a long-term and evergreen basis.
The Importance of a Dedicated, Cohesive Ad Strategy
In this post, we’re going to talk about how to create a single cohesive ad strategy that will reach multiple different platforms.
We prefer to take the approach of a single cohesive strategy across diverse platforms— as opposed to taking a throw-spaghetti-at-the-wall-to-see-what-sticks approach for each platform— because it’s often the most impactful way to drive significant results across all campaigns.
You can see your ROI and your ROAS skyrocket when you’re utilizing the right touch points correctly and creating a stronger ad funnel. It makes sense to have a LinkedIn Ad campaign, for example, that retargets users who checked out your site after they read a sponsored review for it on a review site.
You’re capturing more users at different points of the funnel instead of just trying to focus exclusively on new traffic.
Different SaaS Advertising Platforms to Consider
Before we start going over how to create an advertising strategy for your SaaS brand, the first thing we need to do is go over some of the strongest SaaS advertising platforms.
Each one has its own unique pros and cons, though the platforms you choose will depend heavily on who your audience is and how you plan to reach them.
Let’s take a quick look at four of the most popular ad platforms for SaaS advertising (but remember that there are other platforms available to consider, too, if you want to expand your reach further!).
Google Ads is one of the most popular SaaS advertising platforms, and it’s typically going to be a good one to include in your paid advertising strategy.
Google’s Search Ads allow you to choose relevant keywords and create ads tailored to those specific searches, showing up potentially above organic search results.
You can target generic terms for your tool like “sales forecasting software” or get more niche to better reach your target audience with terms like “sales forecasting software for small businesses” or “sales forecasting software for eCommerce.”
And don’t forget one of our favorite strategies: Targeting a competitor’s branded keyword and a search term like “alternatives.”
Search Ads give you the chance to capture high-intent users who are looking for solutions like yours. And while plenty of businesses may first turn to review sites, many are still checking on Google during their research process.
Google also has Display Ads, which allow you to appear on third-party publisher sites, though Search Ads are definitely the place to be for SaaS brands.
Google Search Ads costs depend heavily on the keywords being targeted, but the average CPC is around $3.33 for B2B keywords.
LinkedIn Ads is a B2B and SaaS advertising dream. You’re getting the opportunity to show your product to users who are already in the business frame of mind (as opposed to “personal” platforms like Facebook or Instagram), and you can use the platform’s powerful targeting system to reach your decision-makers.
There are plenty of different LinkedIn Ad formats, but opting for the conventional in-feed posts is always a great choice.
We’ve got an entire guide about LinkedIn Ads for SaaS and best practices, so make sure you check it out.
According to WebFX, LinkedIn Ad costs have starting points around the following:
- $5.26 per click
- $6.59 per 1000 impressions (or “per mille”)
- $0.80 per send for InMail ads
Sponsored Reviews on Software Sites
Software review sites are a platform you should have your eye on for both organic and paid advertising marketing.
Sites like G2, Capterra, and SaaSGenius are likely to be one of the first places that businesses turn to when they’re researching a SaaS tool that meets their needs. These review sites often have both professionally-written and user-generated reviews, along with detailed pro/con or compare/contrast lists.
Some of these review sites allow you to pay for increased visibility with paid memberships or pay-per-click platforms.
You may be able to feature ads for your software on the platform, have your review listing show up high in its category, or be featured some other way.
This may be how a brand with no reviews showed up so high (aka first) in the SaaSGenius database for the marketing software category.
Costs between platforms— and available sponsorship options— are all different between the individual sites, but they seem to run between a hundred to several hundred per month, depending on what “plan” you select.
In addition to showing up on review sites, you can also try to look for paid opportunities to show up in sponsored content like email newsletters or blog posts from big-name influencers in the industry.
Influencer marketing, after all, isn’t just for B2C companies; plenty of business decision-makers will turn to industry influencers that they trust when it comes to choosing software that’s right for their business.
Sometimes, this may take the form of working with an affiliate. They have a referral code or link on their site, they promote your product, and when users click and purchase, they get a commission.
More often than not, however, sponsored content will include a flat fee for a specific type of promotion. Some bloggers, for example, may charge $100 to be listed in a “top ten” roundup of tools in your category, but $1000 or more for a full-length featured post about your tool.
The costs here can vary significantly. You may be able to get a spot on a highly-rated expert’s blog for around $500, but it can easily cost up to $5,000 in some cases, if not more. That being said, that kind of exposure to high-value and trusting audiences can be well worth it.
How to Create a Strong SaaS Advertising Strategy
Now that we’ve looked at four of the most popular SaaS advertising platforms, let’s break down the process of creating a strong SaaS advertising strategy.
We’re going to walk you through the six essential steps so that by the end of this post, you can create your own strategy to drive awareness, leads, and sales.
1. Consider Your Goals
You’ve likely already got some sort of marketing efforts up and running, so what exactly are your goals with paid advertising?
It’s important to be clear about what specific results you want to achieve, as it can focus your strategy and make sure you aren’t wasting ad dollars.
The most common focus is generating high-quality leads, free trial sign-ups, and demo bookings when it comes to SaaS brands. Sometimes, though, campaigns will also be run to establish general brand awareness or to generate registrations for online events like Breadcrumbs’ Hot Takes Live series.
So, what I always tell my clients to do is make a list of their goals and rank them in order of importance.
Know what particular actions you want to drive, and which are the most important.
2. Determine Which Audiences You Want to Reach
Which audiences do you most want to reach with your ad campaigns?
You may want to reach new, cold audiences as long as they align with any of your general buyer personas. Nothing wrong with that— most of the platforms we’ve looked at can help cast a wide net.
You may also realize that you have a few niches of particularly high-value audiences— or a specific ideal customer profile (ICP)— that you’d like to focus on.
This will determine which platforms you choose (which we’ll talk about in a moment) and how you’ll leverage them. It will also shape the offers you create and the messaging you use. And since you’ll likely need to run campaigns for separate audience segments, it’s important to know who you want to target upfront so you can plan and budget accordingly.
Which brings us to step three…
3. Consider Your Budget
Some brands are going to have the amazing ability to choose their platforms and desired scale of their campaigns first and then decide how much they need to make it happen.
For most SaaS brands, however, you’ll need to start with a set budget and then work your way back from that.
Find how much you can invest in your SaaS advertising strategy alone, outside of your organic marketing. It’s common for businesses to have either monthly, quarterly, bi-annually, or annual budgets that the team may be able to break down as they see fit.
Consider the types of campaigns you want to create and their estimated costs. And consider how aggressively you want to be creating campaigns to achieve the desired level of scale you want to reach in your business.
And don’t forget crucial (but sometimes overlooked costs) like the following:
- Any software needed to create or facilitate these campaigns (like keyword research software)
- Third-party vendors, like graphic designers or copywriters
- Agencies to run or manage your ad campaigns
If you’re not sure how much to invest, you can check out this marketing budget calculator as a good starting point. Some brands will invest as much as 13.6% of their annual revenue in marketing (which is divided between organic and paid marketing platforms), though 2-5% may be average for B2B brands.
4. Think About the Entire Ad Funnel
It’s essential to think about the entire customer journey so that you can create a fully-developed ad funnel.
You don’t want to only introduce new potential contacts to your brand; you want to capture their interest so they convert as leads, and then eventually into customers. And ideally, eventually, they may upgrade to higher-cost plans or pay to access higher-cost features.
Consider where you can interact with users for the first time. Examples may include:
- A relevant Google Ad that shows up while they’re searching for a SaaS tool like yours
- Appearing toward the top of a tool category on a SaaS product review site
- Creating interest by using LinkedIn Ads with specific targeting to generate interest
Once users have clicked on your site and viewed a product page, they may be considering you. At that point, you may want to have campaigns like the following:
- Retargeting campaigns through LinkedIn to generate leads for booked demos
- Featuring ads on different platforms that highlight core use cases in client testimonials to generate free trial sign-ups
- Promoted lead magnets like ebooks or webinars that can help build relationships
And when they’re at the action stage, you’ll want to use a combination of retargeting campaigns and a dedicated email campaign with a professional sales team member to help generate the sale.
Once the sale is made, you can use list-based audiences on different platforms to retarget users to promote new features or higher-level plans for upselling and cross-selling as you see fit. You can also promote referral or affiliate programs to expand your reach further.
5. Choose Your Ad Platforms
At this stage, it’s time to start choosing your ad platforms and deciding which you’ll use to reach users at each stage of the buyer’s journey.
This may vary by audience segment.
Let’s say that you have payroll software that’s designed to be useful to everyone from single-member LLCs all the way to major corporations. You may use the following ad platforms:
- LinkedIn to reach mid-level and enterprise-level clients, targeting decision-makers of the organizations that align with your ICP
- Facebook Ads to reach small business owners, and to retarget these users, especially as tax time approaches
- Google Ads targeting different audience-focused keywords like “enterprise-grade payroll software” or “payroll for freelancers”
- Creating an ebook about “why freelancers need payroll” that you promote as a lead generation tool on Facebook and LinkedIn Ads
- Promoting your listing on a review site in an attempt to reach decision-makers at larger audiences
- Paying for a sponsored newsletter position in a highly-rated small business owner’s publication
Look at all of these different campaigns, and consider your budget. Are they all possible? And are they successfully reaching all of the audience segments you want to target for a full-funnel experience?
If not, what needs to be changed?
Once you’re happy, it’s time to move forward.
6. Create & Test Your Campaigns
You’ve got a good plan in place now, so it’s time to start creating your campaigns.
Remember that paid ad spend is not guaranteed conversion dollars. You want to count on the fact that a lot of clicks won’t convert, especially not at first, so that needs to be factored into estimated customer acquisition costs (CAC).
Testing is a great way, however, to determine which campaigns and platforms are working for your brand. Careful A/B tests can help you assess which campaigns are most successful at driving high-quality leads to your site and why.
Test different copy, visuals, offers, platforms, audiences, bids, and placements. Ideally, when possible, anything that you can test should be tested over time.
This will allow you to better understand and optimize your campaigns moving forward, meaning there’s more opportunity for higher ROI and ROAS in the future.
Analyzing the Success of Your SaaS Advertising Strategy
You need to analyze the success of your SaaS advertising strategy as it progresses. Not only will you likely be asked to justify ongoing ad spend to the boss upstairs, but it’s also essential to see which platforms and campaigns are bringing you leads that the sales team is actually happy with.
If you’re worried about accurately tracking this data, use trackable URLs for each campaign so you can really see which links are driving users to your site (and to conversions). This allows you to create custom links for the same page of your site as you wish, but it’s unique so it’s easier to determine where the traffic is coming from; each platform or campaign gets its own individual trackable link.
So as you’re assessing the success of your campaigns, look at the following metrics:
- Total reach (which is the number of unique users seeing your campaigns)
- Estimated impact on brand awareness
- Clicks to your site
- Cost per click, or cost per action
- Number of leads generated
- Cost of customer acquisition per platform (which looks at the total cost compared to actual leads generated)
- Quality of leads
And one important note here: Number of leads and quality of leads are two different things.
A generalized ebook may bring in a ton of leads at a relatively low cost, but only a few of those users will convert. A lead generation campaign on LinkedIn that drives users to a demo may have a much higher cost-per-action but a higher percentage of leads that convert and retain longer. Keep that in mind.
There you have it: The building blocks to creating your own SaaS advertising strategy. We know that it can be a big process, but it’s well worth investing time and resources in if you’re ready to scale your business.
Keep in mind that each platform is unique, with its own individual pros and cons. Avoid sticking to just one platform, even if it’s working well for you, because diversity will be the best approach here— especially since so many of these platforms can change so quickly and short-term success can be altered quickly.
Looking for more tips about how to excel with SaaS marketing? Make sure you check out our blog here.