The 3-Step Formula for Effective SaaS Marketing

by Katy French

As a SaaS company, your ultimate goal is to attract and retain customers. But with so many competitors vying for the same customers, how do you stand out? How do you make a connection that resonates with your target audience? How do you create a compelling narrative that drives conversions?

These are exactly the types of questions we ask marketing thought-leaders on our Best Story Wins podcast. Fortunately, in our premiere episode, Bryan Saftler, Director of Product Marketing – Communications, Media & Entertainment Industries at Databricks, reminded us that the secret to successful marketing actually lies in a simple but oh-so-powerful formula.

Ironically, we find that many marketers overcomplicate their efforts and end up working twice as hard for half the results. (If this feels like we’re describing you, it might be time to reassess what you’re doing.) So today, we’re sharing Saftler’s simple 3-step formula, plus our best tips to put it into practice, transform your marketing, and get the results you deserve. 

3 Ways to Win SaaS Marketing

From understanding your customer to providing value, these are the best ways to find your audience, meaningfully connect, and turn them into lifelong fans. 

1) Empathize with your customer. 

The first step in creating an effective marketing campaign is understanding your audience. Who are they? What are their pain points? What motivates them? What are their drivers (both personally AND professionally)? By empathizing with your customer, you can better tailor your messaging and offers to their needs.

“Empathizing with the person across the table from you is going to allow you to adapt whatever narrative or story you have to their situation.”
Bryan Saftler,  Director of Product Marketing – Communications, Media & Entertainment Industries at Databricks

When marketing doesn’t resonate, it’s often because it isn’t personal or relevant to the audience. Empathy helps you crack that code, cut through the noise, and create an instant connection that makes your audience feel seen. 

How to be more empathetic: 

  • Create buyer personas. A buyer persona is a fictional representation of your ideal customer. It includes demographic information, as well as details about their goals, challenges, and preferences. Use our guide to create buyer personas to gain a deeper understanding of your target audience and brainstorm great ideas that speak to their specific needs/wants.
  • Look at how other brands are doing it. There are many brands across industries that use empathy to effectively connect. See this roundup of 15 empathy-driven brands to get inspired. 
  • Use polls. Customer feedback will always give you helpful insight into your audience’s unique challenges, pain points, or desires. Use social media, surveys, and other tools to gather feedback about your service and create content that speaks to those issues. 

For more ideas, find out how to inject more empathy into your content strategy and find out how B2B buyers are changing (and what you should do to adapt). 

2) Find the value in your service.

The second key ingredient in the secret formula for SaaS marketing is understanding the value in your service—and creating content that reinforces it. What problem does your service solve? How does it improve your audience’s everyday work life? What short-term and long-term benefits does it provide? How does it help their boss or business?  

To find the value in your service, you need to understand your service inside and out. What are its unique features? How does it compare to competitors? What sets it apart? Your goal is ultimately to understand the core emotional and functional benefits of your product On that note, you don’t want to lead with your service’s features—lead with the benefit. 

To emphasize the value of your service, always promote benefits over features.

For example, if you sell project management software, instead of focusing on the fact that it has a calendar feature, emphasize the way it helps teams stay organized, reduce back-and-forth communication, and meet deadlines. By highlighting the benefits of your product, you can create a stronger emotional connection with your customers and drive more conversions.

How to promote your value:

  • Craft a strong value proposition. Your value proposition will reinforce the main functional and emotional benefits your service provides. See our guide to write a strong value prop if you need to revisit this—and use your main benefits as inspiration for content brainstorms.  
  • Find the emotional hook. If you’re having trouble articulating the benefits of your service, focus on the core emotions associated with your service. For example, you may have highly sophisticated security software, but what you’re really selling is the peace of mind that comes from knowing your company data is safe and protected. If you can hone in on those feelings, you can create emotionally driven marketing messaging that reinforces the value of what you’re selling. 
  • Lead with pain. Frankly, pain and fear are the most powerful emotional drivers. They also give your brand a huge opportunity to become the hero that can save the day. See our tips to turn customer pain points into great content that communicates the value of what you do.

Note: One often overlooked area of brand value is the value you provide as an employer. Your current and future employees are a significant part of your company’s success, so you want to demonstrate the ways you provide value to them, too. One of the best ways to do this is to create an employer value proposition, which can guide any and all culture marketing you do to promote your company. 

3) Tell a narrative story about that value.

The final ingredient in the secret formula for SaaS marketing is storytelling. Humans are wired to respond to stories. By telling a compelling narrative about the value of your product, you can create a deeper connection with your audience.

To tell a great story, you need to understand the hero’s journey—a storytelling framework that has been used for centuries to tell compelling stories. It includes a hero who sets out on a journey, faces challenges and obstacles, and ultimately achieves a goal.

To apply the hero’s journey to your SaaS marketing, you need to position your customer as the hero. They are the ones who are facing challenges and obstacles, and your service is the tool that helps them overcome those challenges and achieve their goals.

For example, let’s say you sell accounting software. Your customer is a small business owner who is struggling to keep track of their finances. By positioning the small business owner as the hero, you can talk about the challenges they face, the obstacles they must overcome, and how your software helps them achieve financial clarity and success.

How to use storytelling in your marketing:

  • Write strong customer success stories. As Bryan points out in our conversation on Best Story Wins, “In a B2B business, the most important thing you can have is customer stories. Because I could tell you six ways from Sunday how my product is better, but the first thing someone’s going to ask you is, ‘Who’s doing it?” To show off your success, share how you helped other customers win. Start with Bryan’s four simple tips to write great customer success stories(BTW, if you’re curious, find out how we helped Happy Money reach millions of customers.)
  • Share your own company stories. One of the best ways to create content your competition can’t is to tell stories from your own experience. Whether you’re sharing a customer win, a lesson you learned, or stories from your own employees, this unique content helps people connect with your brand on a human level and create a stronger bond. 
  • Use data storytelling. Data is a powerful way to build credibility (and proprietary data is a great way to best your competition and even generate newsworthy insights). See our tips to turn your data into interesting stories that will hook your audience. 

Of course, educating your audience is always one of the best ways to provide value, share your expertise, and tell compelling stories. See our tips to educate your customers through content. 

How to Work Smarter in SaaS Marketing

Above all, one of the best ways to be a more effective SaaS marketer is to work smarter, not harder to get better results. If you’re looking for ways to save time, stay up-to-date, and reduce your stress, we have a few more tips for ya before we go. 

  • Makeover your brainstorms. Use our free template to come up with a month’s worth of high-value content in an hour.
  • Maximize your content. Creating content takes time, resources, and energy, so you want it to make the most impact. Find out how a divisible content strategy can help you market one piece of marketing to different audiences across different channels. 
  • Do less (but better) thought leadership. We don’t think you should create content for content’s sake, but we do think you should share your expertise intentionally and effectively. Start with our 5 tips to create thought leadership content that makes an impact.
  • Stay educated. We love sharing tips, tricks, and hacks across all our content. If you’re looking for more marketing ideas, subscribe to the Best Story Wins podcast, sign up for our newsletter for weekly tips, and check out our free resources for more tools and templates to help you work effectively. 

Of course, sometimes it helps to bring in a partner to support your marketing efforts and help you create the right strategy. If you’re on the hunt for the right agency, see our tips to find a partner with the right expertise, find out what it’s like to work with Column Five, or holler at us. We’re here to help brands tell the right stories to the right people—and win their market in the process. 

Want more great marketing tips? Watch Bryan’s full episode of Best Story Wins on YouTube.

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  • vedat beyaz says:

    Thanks a lot for you sharing your knowledge about it. I really appreciate it. I work as a video content creator & video marketeer in Saas company and I am happy to check your resources for having deep insight about SaaS video content creation