The internet has fundamentally transformed how B2B decision-makers find and select software solutions. Cold callers still exist, but it’s easier than ever to network with peers, find content via Google and analyze different solutions on comparison sites.
When it comes to discovering new software solutions, some channels are more popular than others. With that in mind, we’re following up our Software Buyer’s Journey research by looking at the most popular channels used by decision-makers to find new solutions. Focus your efforts on these five channels to make sure your SaaS marketing efforts aren’t being wasted.
On software review websites like G2, Capterra and Clutch, decision-makers can find and compare dozens of different solutions at a glance. It’s not surprising, then, they were the second most popular way decision-makers discover and shortlist new solutions.
Research by G2 supports those findings. The company’s 2018 Benchmark Report found that 71 percent of B2B buyers use reviews in the consideration stage, and 47 percent of them use reviews in the awareness stage.
Review sites work so well because they let customers search entire product categories, says G2’s Mary Clare Novak. Even if they don’t know about your brand, decision-makers have a good chance to find your solution if you invest time and effort into building a presence on these sites.
When it comes to using reviews further down the funnel to make a purchase decision, decision-makers care about the validity of those reviews above all else. That’s according to research by Clutch that found over one-half of respondents were more concerned about validity than other characteristics like rating or recency.
- EM360 has a list of the 10 top B2B review sites. Focus your energies on getting reviewed on these sites.
- CloudApp CEO Scott Smith has a simple two-step process for getting better G2 reviews. Steal this strategy.
In-Person and Online Events
Despite the pandemic bringing the conference industry to a halt, live and in-person events remain one of the major ways B2B decision-makers discover new products. Decision-makers are constantly exposed to brands, whether walking around the exhibition hall or listening to a roundtable discussion about new brands.
It’s not just prospective buyers who understand the potential of finding out about new products at events. Promotional product research and marketing tools company Sageworld finds 88% of businesses sign up for events for brand awareness purposes.
Appearing at an in-person event can help your brand stand apart, says Amanda Nielsen, a partner enrollment manager at productivity platform Formstack. Events help build the kind of intimate human connection that your competitors can’t replicate on their websites, social media or emails —regardless of how great their product is. Events build brand awareness, too. Just appearing can put your company name in front of hundreds or thousands of potential buyers.
You don’t have to blow your marketing budget on a promotional stand at an in-person conference to put your SaaS brand in front of prospective buyers. Webinars can be just as an effective a strategy.
In some ways, virtual venues are even better than physical events, according to Forrester’s Caroline Robertson and Meredith Cain. “Many marketers are experiencing the advantages of online events firsthand, such as broader reach, better attendee data acquisition, and extension of the value beyond the physical date.”
- Kalungi Senior Product Lead Mike Northfield has a great guide from 2019 about how to plan for and prioritize activities at an industry event. Use that guide to help create a playbook for your event marketing strategies.
- If you are going to organize your own virtual event, growth marketer Dan Siepen has a list of the most useful tools.
- Here are our picks for the top SaaS conferences in 2022.
Online marketplaces are a staple of B2C sales where companies like Amazon and Etsy dominate. But they are playing an increasingly important role in the B2B buyer journey, too.
Scale is the answer offered by Matt Collis, cofounder and CEO at StackGo. Few other channels give software vendors the ability to reach so many people. “It goes without saying that the major benefit of selling through a software marketplace is the ability to reach hundreds or thousands of customers in one place,” he says. “This is a truly scalable distribution approach.”
Several types of marketplaces exist. Cloud marketplaces, like AWS and Azure, are some of the most established. They are great go-to-market channels already embraced by brands like Snowflake, PagerDuty and Cloud Zero, writes John Jahnke, CEO at cloud marketplace platform Tackle. Jahnke notes that in their 2021 survey, “83% of buyers said they are likely or extremely likely to purchase through the Marketplace.” The simplification of the procurement process is one of the reasons these marketplaces are favored by buyers.
Other SaaS marketplaces include Product Hunt, AppSumo and Shopify. Product Hunt is an “excellent tool for getting your product in front of a lot of eyeballs,” writes Matt Johnson, cofounder and CEO at productivity assistant app Taskable. “Regardless of whether you are a top product, managing to make the front page of Product Hunt means tons of new traffic and sign-ups. It’s likely to be the single most significant influx of new users you will have seen to date.”
- Shai Alfandary, VP of business development at Marketo, has a helpful guide for assessing which marketplace is right for your business.
- If you intend to reach customers on the Salesforce AppExchange, Harsh Varshney at Hevo has a nice, comprehensive guide to navigating that marketplace
- Scott Brinker, VP of platform ecosystem at HubSpot, spoke to Velocity Partners in April 2022 about how companies can reach that market. This is a must-read for anyone who’s marketing a HubSpot integration.
- If you have a product that’s perfect for Shopify users, the company has a list of tips that you could use as a checklist to ensure you’ve optimized your presence on that channel.
Blog Posts and Content Marketing
Any SaaS marketer worth their salt knows blog posts are the bread and butter of top-of-funnel content. What you may not realize is just how powerful these pieces of content are at driving awareness. In our research, we found almost twice as many decision-makers found out about software solutions from content compared to ads.
The effectiveness of blog posts as a source of brand awareness hinges on their organic search performance. While prospective buyers may come across some content on social media platforms, they will find most blog posts (and, therefore, your product) on Google.
Organic search drives as much as three-quarters of traffic to SaaS brands, says Mike Sonders, head of marketing at software testing platform Rainforest QA. “It’s difficult to overstate the importance of organic search traffic to the success of B2B SaaS companies,” he says. “Controlling for the noise from the direct channel, search engines are the single biggest source of traffic from new visitors to the top SaaS websites. On average, the biggest SaaS companies get over 26% of their traffic from search engines, which is almost 16 percentage points better than the next-best channel, referrals.”
If you want to attract as many decision-makers as possible, a diverse and full content calendar is essential, says B2B writer Brent Barnhart. That’s because buyers typically consume multiple pieces of content before making a purchase decision and the fact that SaaS customer journeys can be particularly lengthy. “Specifically, plenty of top-the-funnel content such as blog posts, case studies and videos that raise awareness for your product and the problems it solves.”
- If you’re starting your content marketing efforts from scratch, or if you’re rebooting them, your first step will be to create a strategy for promoting your SaaS product.
- When the strategy is in place, you can start to build out your content calendar to maintain consistent production. You’ll need a style guide, too.
- Understand which metrics to track — and which to ignore — so you can assess the performance of your content.
- Don’t ignore the middle of your funnel. Mid-funnel content is sometimes the hardest to create, but it’s also often the most impactful content for B2B software buyers.
Friends and Peers
The majority of SMB decision-makers we surveyed said they hear about new software solutions from their friends and peers. Often, buyers don’t even know they need a particular product, but a recommendation from a friend carries enough weight for them to check it out.
Word-of-mouth referrals work every time for Mike K. Tatum, the director of lifecycle marketing at nutrition company Athletic Greens. “A single personal recommendation from someone I trust is all it takes for me to sit for a demo, trial a tool or outright buy a piece of software with no other marketing or sales effort required,” he writes.
Spencer Coon, cofounder and COO at product release platform Beamer, offers an example of how this can work in practice:
“We were using Quicktime player to record videos and demos to share internally with our team. Eventually, while working with someone external, they sent us a Loom video and we discovered Loom as a better solution to our problem. You can use the Chrome extension to easily record, save videos as links, and send as links as well as control privacy and track views. It was the solution we didn’t know we needed.”
Advice from colleagues and peers is also one of the major ways decision-makers shortlist potential solutions. In our survey, 41.5 percent of respondents said they asked a small group of colleagues about which options to consider.
Because word-of-mouth referrals are so compelling, SaaS marketers should do all they can to encourage them. “When prospects learn about your product from someone who has already used it, their perception of your product shoots high because of the pre-established trust,” says SaaS copywriter Vincent Otieno. “While online reviews may be a way to create this perception of value in solving your prospects’ problems, word of mouth is more powerful especially if it is done voluntarily.”
- Here’s the link for Loom if you need a better tool for shooting product demos.
- The book “Talk Triggers” by Jay Baer and Daniel Lemin offers one of the most practical, comprehensive guides to creating a word-of-mouth marketing strategy for any business.
- The team at ahrefs has a private Facebook group for users. Dedicating this kind of energy to customer success is one of the best things you can do to earn referrals. Consider starting a similar group on Facebook, LinkedIn or wherever makes sense for your customers.
Find Your Place on the Buyer’s Journey
You can’t force decision-makers to try your software solution, but you can make it impossible to ignore. From a keyword-focused content marketing strategy to buying a stand at your industry’s biggest conference to making your product so good that customers can’t help but talk about it, there are many ways to attract attention. The important thing is to focus on the channels that matter most to B2B buyers.
Images by: Agence Olloweb, Cherrydeck, Evangeline Shaw
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