2019 Silicon Valley SaaS Marketing: Customer Acquisition Trends
Digital Marketing

2019 Silicon Valley SaaS Marketing: Customer Acquisition Trends

Zaki Hussain
April 18, 2024

At Clutchgrowth, our focus is on B2B SaaS growth. Our team is stationed in the heart of Silicon Valley, where we work with venture-funded software startups, as well as agile teams operating in global brands.

Because we’re running robust demand generation campaigns including paid advertising, lead nurturing, Sales/Marketing alignment, and ABM (Account-based marketing) programs, we’re able to really understand changes as they’re happening.

As a demand generation marketer, where can you find growth? Where should you focus? What should you be thinking about? Is it even possible to beat out the competition with bigger budgets and brand-name recognition?

We’re sharing some of the recent strategies that have worked well for us, and some failures we learned from that you may be experiencing. Let’s dive into some practical tips to help you with your growth strategy in 2019 and beyond.

1. Don’t Just Create Content for Content’s Sake.

Your content team is creating an ebook you think is going to be a big win. Why do you think so? Just a gut instinct. You haven’t done rounds of interviews with target personas, or sent any drafts to customers for feedback. But it’s going to work! You have a great feeling about it!

So you create a landing page and auto-responder for promotion. You get your ads ready across LinkedIn, Facebook, and Google. You create a sizeable email automation drip campaign for downloaders.

You roll it out and guess what… that ebook you thought everyone would be falling over like a Black Friday rush at Walmart (it’s always Walmart isn’t it?) goes nowhere. Your cost per lead (CPL) is $200+. Less than 10% of people who visit your landing page through paid advertising want it. All that effort you put into the creation and promotion has been a dud. What gives?

Maybe your audience doesn’t want to read whitepapers and ebooks anymore. Get creative.

Mini Case Study

We were working with a SaaS startup. We had an existing piece of content that didn’t really stand out in their space. When we looked at our data, this content drove very few leads. Practically no one was downloading it, and the CPL was over $200.

So we decided to change course on lead generation. We put a webinar together on a trending topic, and partnered with an influencer. It drove 700+ sign-ups, with an average CPL around $12.

Leave room to experiment with different topics and content types and see which one catches fire with your audience. Don’t waste a ton of time creating content and campaigns that don’t resonate in your industry.

If you need to justify your marketing spend, you’ll need a data-driven approach to your content. What are the content metrics you’re working towards? Is the content moving people through the funnel?

The Bottom Line

Don’t add to content saturation. Think beyond whitepapers and Ebooks. It’s better to create one piece of amazing content per year than create 12 low-quality content pieces that miss the mark.

If you’re not super in touch with your market, have a few pieces ready at the top of the funnel (TOFU) for distribution and advertising. Then you can test which content your audience really wants. Be flexible with your automated email workflows.

To make things easier, here’s a little checklist.

  • Educational
  • Targeted to your personas
  • Highlighting the value of your product
  • Created with an end goal in mind (convert users? Gain email sign-ups?)
  • Test-able, with clear metrics to understand how it’s performing
  • Easy to access, and visually appealing
  • One of a few different pieces of content that can be swapped out if it’s not hitting the mark
  • Aligned with Sales metrics and goals

2. Leverage Influencer Marketing, Even if You’re B2B.

The phenomenon of influencer marketing doesn’t start and end with Instagram models… especially not in the SaaS space!

An “influencer” is simply someone who can lend you their credibility, and in doing so boost your reputation. In the B2C world, celebrities will often sell just about anything. The audience for B2B influencers is different. Influencers have a reputation, so they won’t be promoting junk. They will seek to partner with superior products that align with their brand and are disrupting their space.

Taking our case study from earlier – why did our webinar attract so many of our target personas to sign up? One big reason was the speaker – she was a recognized expert in her field, and the audience found her insightful.

As someone who has practiced digital marketing for over 12 years and seen amazing results, we are seeing a trend where digital marketing isn’t the end-all be-all. It’s very possible that an influencer and a community can drive more webinar registrations than your ads and landing pages ever could. Especially if your brand is not well known.

The Bottom Line

Strategically align your brand with an influencer to 10x your credibility and borrow powerful networks and communities. If your brand isn’t one that people know, align with influencers who share your values.

3. The Right Communities are Your Key to Outsmarting Sizeable Competitors.

We learned a valuable lesson when we recently drove 700+ registrations into a webinar for a SaaS client – a company that is not well known in their industry and has BIG competitors.

I assumed that digital marketing and specific targeting would drive a lot of the registrations. My business partner, Randy Hamilton, focused instead on communities where our client’s personas engaged.

I asked myself, “Does he actually think banner ads on some community are going to drive registrations?” No, he wasn’t thinking that. He was creating a very visible sponsorship within an engaged online community filled to the brim with our ideal personas.

Here are the results of digital marketing to drive webinar registrations vs. the sponsored marketing campaign to this relevant online community of professionals.

Digital marketing:

  • $75-100 average CPL: webinar registration targeting a new audience on LinkedIn (cold audience, not aware of our SaaS client).
  • $25-50 average CPL: webinar registration leveraging retargeting across LinkedIn / Facebook / Google (warm audience, having visited our clients website recently).
  • ~100 registrations driven through digital marketing

Community network sponsorship:

  • $12 average CPL: webinar registrations targeting a new audience via the online community network (cold audience, not aware of our SaaS client)
  • ~600 registrations driven through community network

As you can see, our online community marketing campaign promoting the webinar drove 5-6x the registrations vs. digital advertising.

The Bottom Line

Leverage the power of online communities and networks with a strong brand that promote quality content. Just like when you work with an individual influencer, working with a trusted community helps you borrow some of that magical credibility.

4. Be Agile with Paid Advertising.

Just like with your content, be agile in your approach to paid advertising. You’ll want to test everything from the content you promote to the type of ads you’re running to how lead nurturing is set up.

Mini Case Study

We ran LinkedIn ads to generate top-of-funnel leads for B2B SaaS company, aimed at specific companies and job titles they wanted to connect with. These were the results.

LinkedIn ads driving to a landing page:

  • $15 CPC
  • ~8% visitor-to-lead conversion rate
  • $200 CPL

LinkedIn ads driving to LinkedIn lead gen forms:

  • $10 CPC
  • 12.5% visitor-to-lead conversion rate
  • $80 CPL

By keeping the lead gen within LinkedIn, instead of sending the lead to a landing page, we drastically improved our CPL. Did you know that it can take 5-10 seconds for even a simple landing page to load on LinkedIn mobile?

An $80 CPL may still seem high, but in this scenario, it brought in people our client wanted to get in front of and prospect. We used LinkedIn to target a list of key accounts from the Sales team, and targeted specific job titles and functions of our buyer personas in specific companies.

The Bottom Line

Test lead gen forms within LinkedIn and Facebook, instead of always sending people to an external landing page. For multiple clients, we’ve found lead gen forms outperforming optimized, responsive, beautiful landing pages.

5. Prioritize Account-Based Marketing. Go Beyond Whitepapers.

Your marketing budget should be allocating dollars towards webinars, podcasts, and videos – not just ebooks. People are less inclined to fill out forms, email open-rates are declining, and CPLs for content advertising are going up.

Video consumption is up 4x year-over-year, and it’s only growing. Webinars are popular. Podcasts are blowing up. You may not know what your favorite writer looks like, but you’ll recognize the people who habitually step in front of a camera at the next conference.

The Drift sales team has been consistently doing LinkedIn video and YouTube advertising. Is it teaching you about marketing and sales? Maybe, maybe not, but you’ve seen them and they stand out because others aren’t doing it.

We’re not suggesting that you forsake written content completely. But embrace other avenues alongside it. Send your prospects a short video. Send a direct mail card and package to your top target accounts. Cut to the chase; not every funnel has to start with a long book.

We spent $12k on a direct mail campaign to a targeted list of accounts in a vertical, and generated $350k in pipeline. No long-form content needed.

The Bottom Line

Move along with the market. Get creative about hitting your key accounts on multiple fronts through the power of ABM. Be so good they can’t ignore you.

6. Get Conversational

If people are already on your website, it doesn’t make much sense to send them to a form, then have a salesperson follow up with them later, when they may have forgotten all about you. Seize the opportunity to get conversational right away, so you can quickly qualify prospects directly from your site, and route them to the appropriate salesperson.

If a prospect needs Sales, they can be directed to the Sales team. If they need technical support, you can route them to the appropriate channel. Bots and playbooks are increasingly sophisticated these days, and you can use them to figure out what a person needs and educate them, all without the messiness of wait times, scheduling snafus, and form fills.

The Bottom Line

There’s no excuse not to automate scheduling, demos, and conversations directly on your website. Let the robots help you qualify those leads, and bring those leads the answers they need – pronto!

7. Build Product-Led Growth Into Your Marketing Strategy (Be a Flywheel).

The startup unicorns have built insanely good products that catch on faster than any marketer can sell it.

Brian Halligan, CEO of HubSpot, stated: “I stopped thinking about our business like a traditional sales and marketing firm. It’s more like a flywheel where customers are the main driver that pulls new prospects in. The flywheel spins at the rate of our customers’ delight.”

What does a product-led growth campaign look like out in the wild? Take Expensify, for example. They get users to promote their brand, and they targeted people that submit expense reports. Their slogan was “Expense reports that don’t suck.” They targeted users directly, as opposed to just buyers.

The Slack platform allows users to invite others into their workspace. Dropbox has a functionality where you can add a new user to unlock more space. The Ice Bucket Challenge raised $100 million in 30 days. All of these are examples of product-led growth.

The Bottom Line

Digital marketing tactics that have worked for years are now becoming increasingly saturated. Embrace product-led growth and promote it in your marketing strategy.

The Actionable Steps That Will Give Your SaaS Marketing That Zing! In 2019

  • Don’t create content for the content landfill – offer value to your users in the medium they’re wanting it
  • Let the data drive your content – test, refine, swap out, and track
  • Leverage influencers and communities
  • Google / FB / LI isn’t always the most effective advertising
  • Pick up a camera / go into the recording studio / send direct mail
  • Be human and build opportunities for conversation (with both bots and people)
  • Leverage ABM to ensure your marketing efforts aren’t wasted
  • Product-lead growth results in happier customers and less churn

Need a helping hand with creative demand generation campaigns that drive qualified leads? Schedule a consultation and let’s chat about your specific needs.

Zaki Hussain
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