How to Grow a SaaS Business: 5 Strategies That Actually Work
New mobile apps to keep an eye on
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Use new social media apps as marketing funnels
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Try out Twitter Spaces or Clubhouse on iPhone
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Before we begin I just want to clarify who this blog post is for.
The principles and SaaS growth strategies in this post are effective no matter how large or small your SaaS business is. But this post is more tailored to SaaS companies that are under $50k MRR.
If your SaaS is above that, no worries. Please feel free to keep reading. There is value for SaaS companies of all sizes.
Intro - why you should listen to me
My name is Adam White. Over the last 20+ years I have built bought and sold 18 Internet businesses, which includes for SaaS companies.
The most recent SaaS business that I sold was for seven figures, and I ran that business as a Solopreneur.
I just want to set the record straight as to why you should listen to me when I tell you here is what has worked for me as I’ve built grown and sold multiple SaaS companies.
One last thing before we get started. All of these businesses have been bootstrapped. I’ve never taken a penny of investment money to grow these businesses to the point where I could sell them for a big paydays.
So the tips and strategies I’m going to teach you will work no matter what your budget is.
Understanding your customers pain
There are two big reasons that SaaS startups fail or struggle to gain traction in the beginning.
One is because founders don’t truly understand the pain points that their customers are trying to solve.
The other reason is that your software is trying to solve a problem that really isn’t a big enough problem that people will pay you to solve it.
Before you spend any more time on your business, you need to be honest with yourself.
Does your software actually solve a problem?
If you cannot give a resounding “yes“ to that question then you might need to think about going back to the drawing board or shutting your SaaS down altogether.
I have worked in the Internet world for 20+ years but my core area focus has been in the SEO space.
When I was doing SEO consulting for Marcus Lemonis, I kept running into a problem.
You see, Marcus Lemonis was a famous TV, celebrity businessman, and because of his high profile I was worried that as I built backlinks to get his websites to boost their ranking that I might be too aggressive and do damage and get them penalized.
So I started looking around online trying to find a guide to show me how to build backlinks in a safe way to keep me safe from Google penalties, but to be aggressive enough to move the needle and get higher rankings.
I looked, and I looked, but couldn’t find anything. And so I decided I was going to figure out the problem myself, and then build a SaaS company to solve the same problem for all other SEO professionals.
I buckled down and did hundreds of hours of research looking at the backlinks of number one ranked pages on Google.
I categorized and organize the data and build out what I like to call link maps, which essentially gave SEO people a roadmap on which backlinks to build for any website in order to rank number one.
I sent an email out to about 500 people in the SEO world talking about this new thing I had done and if they wanted to get a demo of it and 100 of them said yes.
Because I had spent so much time in this industry, I knew where the pain points were and hit the ground running with this business.
It was easy for me to know that other SEO professionals just like me would be willing to pay for problems because we were all experiencing them together.
What is the story of why you built your SaaS?
Does your SaaS business solve a real problem? Do you need to make changes to the software to focus on what the real problems are? Now is the time to make that decision.
Page One Highjacking Strategy
Right now there are hundreds of blog posts that rank on page 1 of Google for terms that you want to rank for.
They’ve already done all of the hard work, built all of the backlinks, created all of the amazing content, and have a big head start on you.
I don’t need to point that out to make you feel like there’s no chance you’ll ever rank on page one, but I’ve created a strategy to take advantage of all the hard work they’ve already done so that you can steal some of that page one traffic while you’re waiting for your Pages to start ranking.
Essentially, page one hijacking means we are partnering up with those blog posts that are already ranking on page one and getting them to link to our website inside of their content.
For example, if you do a search for "landing page optimization tools", you get these results:
You can see that the majority of the rankings on page one are what we call listicles. In other words, blog post that are big giant “best of” lists.
With the page one hijacking strategy, I would literally go through this list of listicles and reach out to them and ask them what it will take to get my company listed as well.
Some of them will be your competitors, and so they will not list you. Others will just be bloggers and you should have no problem getting them to list your SaaS app.
You will probably have to pay some amount of money to get them to add your software to the list but because you’re paying money, you can probably negotiate hire placement in the article so that you get more eyeballs and more traffic.
The great thing about the Page 1 hijacking strategy is that these sites are already getting the traffic that you want. This is bottom of the funnel, relevant traffic.
I’ve used this strategy very successfully with new SaaS businesses to help me get my first customers while I was waiting for my rankings to kick in.
This then became another great marketing channel to go along with the SEO I was doing, driving, consistent traffic and sign ups throughout the life of my business.
SEO Is Your Best Friend...If Done Right
if you’re a bootstrapped SaaS business, SEO is your best friend when you get started. In fact, most bootstrapped SaaS companies rely almost solely on SEO for traffic and new sign ups in the beginning.
We’ll talk more about why you shouldn’t only focus on one marketing channel later on in this article but for now let’s talk about SEO.
I don’t want to go super in-depth on how to do SEO. There’s lots of resources out there that you can read and learn and watch. The guys at growandconvert.com do a really good job of teaching SEO for SaaS businesses.
The most important principle that you need to understand is when you do SEO do you want to rank four terms that are bottom of the funnel terms. The Grow and Convert guys called this pain point SEO.
When someone is actively trying to solve their problem by doing a Google search, you want your website to be ranked first as the solution for that problem.
For example, I’m a partner in a SaaS company called JustReachOut. This app makes reaching out to journalists super easy and fast, and the software is much more affordable than competitors on the market.
There are many PR managers and consultants and founders that want more coverage from journalist about their business. The problem is they don’t know how to effectively pitch people in the media.
So we created a blog post that teaches them how to pitch the media with examples and templates and all of the information they could ever want step-by-step on how to do this successfully.
The blog post targets terms like media pitch examples and media pitch templates. We rank extremely well for those terms and then in the blog post, we upsell the readers to try out our software as an easier way to pitch the media.
Here is a snapshot of this blog post inside of SquidVision. You can see how the post is generating sign ups and revenue.
A deeper dive into the heatmap shows which calls to action in the blog post are driving the revenue:
This is pain point SEO.
I’d recommend creating 10-20 really in-depth awesome blog posts that answer the pain points of your target audience and then seamlessly upsell them to your SaaS app.
When I say 10 to 20 I don’t mean that you need to write them all right now. You can add one of these posts per month but you just need to make sure that they are super in-depth at least 2500 words each and the information is so good that people will. Thank you for sharing it.
Word of caution: you can use AI to help you create an outline, and give you ideas on what to talk about in these articles. But I strongly suggest you don’t have a I write them for you because it will show.
Setup email follow up marketing
As you probably know, most people that come to your website or we’re not going to sign up right away.
If you’re getting 1.5% to 2% of your website visitors signing up for a trial. You’re doing an amazing job.
One of the best ways to get more of your website traffic to turn into customers is to get them on your email list and then nurture them.
There’s just a huge group of people that just need to get to know, like, and trust you before they will give you money.
A good follow up sequence through email is a great way to gain that trust and to get people to sign up for your product.
The way that you get them to know, like, and trust you is to give them your knowledge. Teach them and give them actionable content that will make their lives better.
The more you give the more they will feel inclined to pay you back through a subscription.
I remember signing up for an email course from a founder of a SaaS app and by the third email I was digging the content he was teaching so much that I wanted to dig up for his app.
He hadn’t put any calls to action in the emails and the website was invite only so I literally emailed him, begging him to let me sign up.
A 7 day course is a good place to start. Just make sure you are very personable in the emails and make sure the content is really strong.
Commit Right Now To Learn Facebook Ads
Learning how to do Facebook ads for my SaaS business was the single most impactful thing I ever did for growth.
I was running a software business that was struggling to be profitable and had always relied on SEO, and page one hijacking for traffic.
I knew I needed to learn Facebook ads and so I turned to a successful, SaaS founder, who was always crushing Facebook ads.
I paid him handsomely to teach me his Facebook ad strategy.
After implementing everything, he taught me my business, doubled in size within three months, and within six months, I had a seven figure exit.
He taught me a strategy which was counterintuitive, and the opposite of what I had heard many times before.
He taught me that we were that only going after traffic that would convert into a trial on the same day that they visited the site for the first time.
I had heard so many times in internet marketing courses, in conferences, and blog posts that you have to nurture a lead and get them from the top of the funnel to the bottom of the funnel and it takes lots of steps and you can’t propose on the first date and all these things.
But my Facebook ads mentor taught me that we were only going after bottom of the funnel people that were ready to buy right now.
I loved this idea because frankly it’s easier than having to move someone down the funnel.
It also simplified the overall strategy and made it easier to see if our ads were profitable.
The main focus of the strategy revolves around three different metrics that you need to know really well.
The first metric is trial conversion rate. In other words, how many of the users that sign up for a trial convert to paying customers.
Stripe will show you this information on your main dashboard.
The second metric you need to know is customer lifetime value (CLTV). Again stripe will show you this information on the dashboard.
The third, metric that matters is customer acquisition cost (CAC). This just means how much are you spending to get someone to sign up for a trial. You get this number from Facebook.
You take each of these three metrics to help you understand how much you can spend to acquire a customer through Facebook in order to stay profitable.
Let me explain how it works. Let’s say that SquidVision has a trial conversion rate of 30% and a customer lifetime value of $400.
So if I spend $300 on Facebook and get 3 new trial sign ups, probably one of them will convert to be a paying subscriber. And since we know that a paying subscriber is worth about $400, I would profit around $100.
A rule of thumb that I like to follow is if my trial conversion rate is at least 30% then I want my customer acquisition cost to be 1/4 of the lifetime value of a customer
So in this example I would want my customer acquisition cost to be around $100.
It really is as simple as that. You're trying to get people to signup the first time they see your ad and these are the numbers to make it profitable.
Anyone who comes back later to sign up is just a bonus.
I’m not going to go into the specifics of setting up Facebook ads and the best creative to use in the best headlines and marketing copy in this post.
The one thing I will tell you is you should be testing creative ad copy and headlines all the time
Facebook has a built-in feature where you can give it 5 to 10 versions of each of those things and it will randomly test for you and find the best combination and show that to everyone.
There are better waste to test all of those things on your own, but you have to test them each individually and it takes longer and cost so little bit more money.
AB test the crap out of your landing pages
Now that you are driving traffic with Facebook, it's time to maximize the revenue you're generating from the ads.
One of the easiest ways to grow revenue for your SaaS business is to increase the conversion rate of people that come to your website that turn into subscribers.
The reason that I love this strategy, so much is because it doesn’t cost any money, but you can increase your revenue just by making changes to your website.
This should be a staple in every bootstrapped, SaaS companies arsenal, but for some reason very few SaaS founders spend any time on this part of growth.
What if you could triple the amount of revenue that each blog post generates?
What, if by simply changing one headline on your homepage, you could double conversions?
What if you could increase your websites overall conversion rate to 2% to 3%?
With this have an impact on your business?
When you focus on conversion rate, optimization and increasing revenue through AB testing, you will be amazed at the games, you can make in revenue growth without having to spend any more money.
My favorite thing to test
Above the fold - the real estate on your homepage or landing pages that is above the fold, in other words, before a users hast to scroll to see more, is the most valuable real estate on your website.
It gives a potential customer the first impression, it determines within three seconds if your website is the solution that they have been looking for.
If you get this part of your website right, you have a much higher chance of converting them to a customer because they will want to learn more about what you do.
You should always be testing the main headline on your homepage and your PPC landing pages.
The main headline should convey the following:
Who is this for?
What does it do?
Why should they care?
You should also test the sub headline right underneath the main headline.
The sub headline’s purpose is to further explain the benefits of using your software.
Notice that I didn’t mention features.
Save those for further down the page. For the above the fold section we focus on outcomes for your customer.
A SaaS AB Test Case Study
Let me show you how testing just the headline and sub headline can make a difference in your revenue.
I recently ran a headline AB test for JustReachOut and found some very interesting results.
I tested 3 different headlines and sub-headlines on landing pages where we were sending Google Ad traffic.
This the original landing page headline and sub-headline:
I wanted to try two new headlines against this one to see if I could improve conversions and revenue from our Google ads.
Here is the first variation, focusing on how JustReachOut is a secret weapon for PR specialists.
Sorry I don’t have a regular snapshot of the two variations, here is the snapshot we took inside of SquidVision to track clicks and revenue:
Here is the second variation, focusing on the AI we had recently built into the app:
Here are the results of the AB test. A conversion for this test was when a website visitor signed up for a trial to use the software. Keep in mind that it didn’t account for whether or not those trials turned into paying customers.
As you can see from the Google optimize graphic above, the results of the AB test have variation #1 (Secret Weapon For PR Specialists) as the winner with a 4% conversion rate which is amazing and an 62% increase over the control.
But here is where it gets interesting.
When you look at those 3 pages inside of SquidVision below, where we also track trials, conversions and revenue, you see a totally different picture than what Google optimize told us.
As you can see from the snapshot, the total revenue gained from each version of the landing page ranks the 3rd version (focus on AI) of the landing page as the clear winner, not the 2nd version.
The control landing page made $1,382. Variation #1 did better than the control and made $1,752. Variation #2 did the best with $2,892 of revenue.
So even though Variation #1 had a better trial sign up conversion rate, Variation #2 made 65% more revenue than Variation #1 and was 109% better than the original landing page.
This is a huge revelation because ultimately what I care about is making more money, not getting more trial signups.
But let this be a lesson to you. Put all of your landing pages and other high traffic pages into SquidVision to get the real story of how each page is driving revenue growth.
As a general rule I am always AB testing something on my websites. You can always generate more revenue for your SaaS company from your existing traffic if you’ll just take the time to set up these tests.
These SaaS growth strategies are not theory. These are strategies I have used to grow my own SaaS companies, 4 of which have had successful exits.
I’m not the end all be all when it comes to SaaS growth. In fact there is so much I don’t know and I rely on others who are more successful and smarter than I am to help me make smarter decisions.
But I always really appreciate it when other SaaS founders share things they are actually doing to get results.
Now get out there and make it happen and if you haven’t yet, give SquidVision a try. Once you start using it you will get hooked.