Selling SaaS solutions isn’t easy. We are going to look at 20 growth hacking solutions to grow your SaaS. First, let’s look a what growth hacking is.
Since Software as a Service applications and tools run on the cloud, you haven’t got any tangible products to take to your audience, or any eye-catching packaging to rely on.
You’re stuck trying to convey the value of something that your audience can’t see or touch in an evolving digital world.
It’s no wonder that SaaS companies have such a hard time finding their feet in the current landscape.
Fortunately, there are things you can do to boost your chances of immediate and long-term growth in the SaaS environment.
What is SaaS Growth Hacking?
SaaS success is all about the numbers.
If you can find a strategy that allows you to attract more customers over time than you lose, then your business will grow and thrive. On the other hand, if you’re not constantly growing, then you’re standing still. That means that you’ll likely end up getting devoured by your competition.
Growth hacking is a strategy that marketers in the SaaS world can use to acquire and retain customers – without spending a lot of money.
With growth hacking, you can generate massive opportunities for your startup, even if you only have a very small budget.
While any business can explore the benefits of growth hacking for their marketing and sales efforts, SaaS companies may need to focus more aggressively on specific kinds of growth hacking to make their software stand out.
Here are our favorite examples of effective SaaS growth hacking solutions for the modern business.
- Offer Free Trials
The concept of “try before you buy” isn’t new. However, in the SaaS world, it’s more expected than ever. Your customers have the option to explore thousands of potential pieces of software each day. Giving them the opportunity to try some of your features before you ask them to spend their cash is the best way to get people hooked to your brand.
The freemium pricing model, where people can use a free but paired down version of your app until they’re ready to upgrade to a premium service, is particularly popular among millennials. Today, millennials are one of the biggest consumer markets available, with a buying power of around $600 billion. By next year, millennials could be spending $1.4 trillion annually.
Trials and freemium versions of your product don’t require a lot of initial investment. You can even offer a paid version of your app for a slightly lower price than normal. For instance, you can get 7 days of Ahrefs for $7:
Offering free trials is a great way to start collecting lead for your email marketing campaigns too, where you can educate people on the value of your software.
- Give Customers More Control
Aside from giving your customers the option to experiment with things like free trials and freemium versions of your product, you can also boost your chances of growth by giving them more control over their accounts. The unfortunate truth is that SaaS customers cancel their accounts on a daily basis. However, not everyone will want to pull the plug on your software completely.
If your customer is having a hard time with their own startup growth, they might want to put their subscription on hold for a while or revert back to the free version of an app until they can afford to upgrade. Giving your clients this extra option means that they won’t abandon your sales funnel completely. For instance, Hulu lets people put their “Plus” subscription on hold for a little while:
If a user elects to cancel their subscription completely, the software service offers them the option to stick around for a month “on the house”. If the user takes the free month, they’ll be automatically subscribed back onto their recurring service, which means that they’re less likely to cancel again immediately.
- Launch a Referral Program
According to a report by Influitive, and Heinz Marketing, fewer than one in four B2B organizations have a formal referral program. However, the companies that do invest in referral opportunities are often the ones that achieve the highest number of sales. Not only that, but companies with referral marketing strategies also have lower acquisition costs too.
Setting up a referral program for your SaaS business is one of the easiest ways to generate more attention for your brand. Take a look at the 12-billion dollar brand, Dropbox, for instance. The company used a basic referral program to boost its growth from just 100,000 users to 4 million in a period of 15 months. The simple referral offer gave customers an extra 500 MB of space for every friend that they referred to.
Note-taking app Evernote used a similar strategy to grow. Evernote achieved 1 million users in 446 days by allowing customers to earn points with each referral that they could put towards a premium version of the app.
- Jump Into Influencer Marketing
Influencer marketing is quickly becoming one of the most popular growth hacking strategies today. Despite common belief, an influencer marketing plan doesn’t have to be expensive to be effective. All you need is a strategy for choosing the right influencer for your campaigns.
Some companies like Monday.com are using everyday thought leaders in the social media space to highlight the value of their applications. For instance, check out this retweet from the Monday.com brand:
To make sure that you’re getting the most out of your influencer marketing plan, all you need to do is figure out who in your industry has the most impact on your target audience. Tools like Brand24 and Buzzsumo will help you with finding people who are already getting a lot of attention online.
Once you’ve found a potential influencer, you can use the email finding tools on the web today to track your partners down and reach out. Remember, don’t just send out any old automated email blast. You’ll need to create a personalized message that highlights the value of working with your brand.
Offering a free subscription to your software could be an easy and affordable way to get some lower-cost micro-influencers on board.
- Collaborate with Other Marketers
Influencers aren’t the only way to give your digital presence a boost. Although it’s easy to see other companies similar to yours as nothing but the competition – those brands could also help you to grow when you’re first starting out. The key is to find brands that share the vision and values of your business, so you can combine skills to derive bigger marketing benefits.
For instance, perhaps you could work with another business in your industry by producing a guest post for their blog? You’ll be able to link back to your website and gain more traffic that way. At the same time, the other brand benefits from having more content on their site.
If you don’t have the time to produce brand-new content for another website, then you could even consider content syndication instead. With content syndication, you simply post an existing blog or article from your website to another page. The article comes with a disclaimer that the content first appeared on your site, like so:
Content syndication and guest blogging can be excellent ways to improve your brand reach without having to invest in expensive marketing strategies.
Just make sure that you’re working with brands that appeal to the kind of audience that you want to reach.
- Experiment with Integrations
While guest blogging, syndication, and influencer marketing are just some of the most common ways for brands to work together online – there is another option for SaaS brands. Integrations are becoming particularly popular in the digital landscape. Businesses want to spend less time jumping between multiple apps in their tech stack, and more time getting things done.
By integrating with bigger applications and tools, you can ensure that you have yet another way to reach your target audience, and potential new customers too.
For instance, Slack is currently one of the most popular collaboration apps in the world, helping people to communicate in real-time when they’re at work. However, it wouldn’t be nearly as popular as it is today if it didn’t integrate with hundreds of tools that its customers already use:
Reach out to software companies in your space and find out what you would need to do to make your app integrate able with their service.
- Be Exclusive
If working with other brands isn’t appealing to you, then you could always try taking a different approach. Being exclusive is an excellent strategy for SaaS brands that want to generate buzz about their tools and services. Exclusivity has a unique appeal to it, as everyone wants to be part of something special. LinkedIn showed us just how useful this tactic could be.
While countless other companies were creating social media sites that appealed to anyone and everyone, LinkedIn focused on reaching professionals. LinkedIn became the world’s largest professional network, developing a culture that was specifically for the professionals of the world that wanted to network and grow.
There are now millions of people that rely on LinkedIn for everything from job searching, to connecting with industry peers. The slight boost of exclusivity helped to draw customers to LinkedIn’s platform in droves – right at the time when Facebook and Twitter were gaining ground.
- Make an Impact with Content Marketing and SEO
When used correctly, content marketing and SEO are two of the most valuable marketing methods in the world today. Creating content for your prospects is one of the easiest ways for SaaS marketers to generate true brand awareness and develop greater trust for their company.
Content marketing relies on your ability to showcase your thought leadership with free education that solves pain points and challenges for your customers. Deliver the right evergreen information with your content, and the returns of your informational content can become compounding too. That basically means that you continue to get more and more benefits over time.
There are plenty of ways to find ideas for what to write about with your content marketing, from searching on Google to checking out the questions that your customers are asking your sales teams.
HubSpot is an excellent example of a business that uses content marketing and SEO to its advantage. HubSpot ensures that it’s ranking for many of the top searches that customers make when they’re looking for details on content and digital marketing, including “How to Write a Blog Post.” These informational blogs give value to customers while keeping HubSpot at the top spot on the search engine rankings, so it’s much easier for clients to find.
- Consider Themed Content Clusters
Want to get really smart with your content marketing strategies?
Copper CRM’s Dominique Jackson suggests that one of the best growth hack strategies his business used in 2018, was the use of themed content clusters. Rather than just publishing articles on various unrelated topics about CRMs and customer service, Copper came up with a broad pillar-based themes for their customers. The business then built a number of in-depth articles covering topics that were relevant for each theme.
Switching form everyday content to content clusters allowed Copper CRM to create more targeted and connected blog posts for their strategy. Not only did the campaign allow them to reach more highly-targeted audiences, but it improved their SEO strategy too.
With content clusters, Copper was able to grow its organic blog traffic by more than 200% in four months.
- Try SEO Piggybacking
Speaking of SEO, there are plenty of ways that you can use the search engines to enhance your SaaS Growth hacking strategies. One option is to consider SEO piggybacking – which is a sneaky, but often effective way to boost your chances of appearing in more search engine results.
The idea is that you target and rank for all the keywords that your competitor wants to reach their audience with. With this campaign, you can take advantage of the exposure that competitors already have with your SEO and PPC campaigns.
Plenty of SaaS companies have tried this strategy for themselves, bidding for AdWords based on competitor names and products. For instance, just take a look at the results that you get if you search for “Help Scout” on Google:
You probably won’t make a lot of friends with other brands in your industry using this strategy – but you could improve your chances of extra exposure if you’re a small and growing brand.
- Take Part in Industry Events
There are dozens of amazing SaaS conferences and events out there for business leaders and marketing teams to attend. If you can take some time out of your busy schedule to check out these offline experiences, then you might discover the benefits of taking your growth hacks to another level.
Business networking events and workshops offer one of the most compelling and inexpensive ways to get the word out about your SaaS campaigns and make new contacts. You can get in touch with local businesses, national event organizers, and more to see whether you can showcase your product at an expo or speak about it in a keynote.
If you can play a significant part in an upcoming Expo, then you’ll benefit from added exposure from the event organizers too, who might reference your company when sharing details of the upcoming conference on Twitter.
- Experiment with Common Conversion Activities
Here’s another pretty well-known SaaS growth hacking solution in the current landscape.
In today’s world, we’re more reliant on data than ever before. We use the data we collect from things like email subscription forms and usage alerts to determine how we need to connect with our customers. If you can gather enough data from your SaaS solution to figure out what makes users stick around on your app or software, then you could use that to your advantage too.
Using “Common Conversion Activities” as a growth hack means figuring out what makes users stay on your software, then pushing your new registered users towards those activities. For instance, take a look at how Chargebee uses this strategy:
Another fantastic example of a company that has used CCA hacks in the past is Twitter. The social media site pushes users to follow their first ten people as soon as they get started. From that point, you’re usually hooked!
- Reverse Engineer your CTAs
Most SaaS companies will rely on using CTA buttons throughout their website, including options like “Book a Demo” or “Try Now.” However, it’s challenging to find the CTAs that are going to bring you the highest conversion rates. As your traffic continues to rise, you need to find ways to transform your visitors into real, paying customers.
One option is to start reverse-engineering your CTAs. Go and speak to your customer success team and sales experts and find out what your audience really wants from your brand. For instance, Atomic Reach reverse-engineered their CTAs to discover that most of their customers were using their tool for content audits. Because of this, they changed their CTA buttons to highlight a free content audit.
Just by including the words “Content Audit” in their pages, the company managed to enhance their conversion strategy and triple their conversion rates.
- Try Being More Playful
Getting people to stick with your SaaS solution can be a complicated process. You need to educate your users and help them to get better at using your software so that they can gain value from it. The more you educate your users, the more they’ll see benefits from your product that make them want to stick around. However, if you’re not giving your audience enough initial value, then they might not stick with you long enough to learn how to use your product.
Fortunately, that’s where SaaS growth hacking strategies like gamification can come in handy. Games are excellent for motivating and inspiring your customers. When we get a reward from something, we’re often wired to keep trying to get more. For instance, the Duolingo app used gamification to transform the learning process for millions of subscribers.
The more customers use the application, the more rewards and certificates they win. It might seem simplistic, but we all love feeling as though we’re accomplishing something.
- Run Google Ads
SEO and content marketing are excellent ways to generate organic traffic for your SaaS business. However, organic results take time and effort to cultivate. On the other hand, if you’re looking for immediate growth opportunities, then paid advertising can help you to generate leads from day one.
One significant advantage of investing in PPC ads is that you can use them to drive targeted traffic to your website at scale. What’s more, the predictability of the results and the reduced costs means that it’s easier to allocate your marketing budget according to specific requirements.
One great way to upgrade your SaaS ads in the PPC space is to make sure that you’re driving clicks to “solution” based content. Group the keywords that you want to rank for into ad groups with specific problems and direct your audience to a page that addresses a solution to that problem. For instance, check out this landing page that customers get to if they search for marketing briefs on Google from Repsly:
- Harness the Power of Social Proof
In a world where customers are becoming increasingly cautious about the software that they download and use, you need to give your audience peace of mind. Ultimately, everyone is worried about hackers, ransomware, and even privacy scandals these days. Social proof is just one of the ways that you can growth hack your success by making your company appear more credible.
There are plenty of ways that you can access social proof. For instance, Website Builder Wix used Heidi Klum as a form of celebrity social proof several years ago to highlight the trustworthiness of the brand. However, you don’t need to pay for a celebrity to come and give your business shout outs if you don’t have a lot of extra cash. You can use Google’s Trusted Seller Ratings extension to get stars alongside your search results.
Alternatively, you could incentive your audience members to leave reviews on your website when they download your software. Give them a discount on their next subscription when they leave a comment or enter them into a free prize draw. Even listing some of the companies that you already work with on the bottom of your site’s home page could be enough – as Trello does here:
- Tell More Customer Stories
Human beings love storytelling – we’re just hardwired that way.
That’s probably one of the reasons why customer storytelling is one of the most effective strategies that today’s companies can use for growth. According to Demand Gen’s 2017 content preferences report, 78% of B2B decision-makers use case studies and customer stories to research purchasing decisions.
With the right case studies and customer stories, you make it easier for customers to see themselves in the shoes of your previous clients. Customer stories are also an excellent way to enhance the ROI of your content strategy because you can use them anywhere in your sales funnel.
Check out this example from WordStream, which highlights the impact that the software has had on a resort owner.
- Provide an Amazing Customer Experience
At first, glance, offering customers an amazing experience might not seem like much of a growth hack – but bear with us. Focusing on customer experience is one of the best things that you can do to differentiate your brand these days.
There are lots of strategies that you can use to strengthen your customer’s experience of your brand. For instance, HelpScout uses engaging guides and articles to keep their customers informed and connected.
You can also send your audience members newsletters so they’re up-to-date on things like your latest software product patches, upcoming sales, and other important information. Even providing your audience members with regular discounts and offers is a great way to keep them happy. Other options include:
- Offering instant chat support on your website for your software users
- Providing behind-the-scenes guides and videos into how to use your product
- Running free webinar and training sessions for customers
For a SaaS company, it’s important to remember that your business success will rely heavily on your ongoing subscriptions. Monetization and retention policies will always have a larger impact on your ability to grow than basic acquisition.
The best way to figure out what your customer needs for an excellent experience with your brand is to listen to them. Gather feedback and reviews and use that information to guide your customer service decisions.
- Deploy Talk Triggers
Another exciting option for SaaS growth hacking was coined by an author named Jay Baer, and it’s called the “talk trigger”. Essentially, this strategy is all about creating a fundamental element of your business that triggers word of mouth about your business from day one.
The most famous example of a talk trigger today is the DoubleTree hotel’s commitment to giving every customer a chocolate-chip cookie when they check in to their room. The hotel gives out thousands of cookies every day, and 34% of their customers apparently mention getting that cookie within 60 days of their trip. The same strategy can work for your SaaS brand.
For instance, Dropbox used its referral program to instantly give users access to extra storage space for both the user and the person that they referred. That’s a great example of a talk trigger. For your trigger to work, you’ll need to make sure that it’s:
- Remarkable: Choose something that’s going to surprise and delight your audience, like getting a free cookie when they book into your hotel.
- Reasonable: You need your trigger to make an impact, but it needs to be small enough that you can afford to scale the strategy.
- Relevant: It needs to be something that aligns with your service offering – like extra storage space on Dropbox.
- Experiment with Pricing
Last but not least, there’s one other interesting way that you can explore the power of growth hacking for your SaaS company – and that’s experimenting with your pricing. In a study into more than six thousand SaaS brands, the Chargebee company discovered that we only spend around 12 hours figuring out what our pricing plans should be.
Unfortunately, in the SaaS world, your pricing strategy is always going to play a massive role in your strategy to convert trial users into customers. SaaS companies that spend more time optimizing their pricing strategy will have up to 6 times higher LTV ratios to cost per acquisition than the companies that don’t.
Think about how you can make your prices more appealing to your target audience. For instance, many email marketing SaaS companies offer annual prices that are just a little bit lower than the monthly price for their subscriptions. Annual plans can lower your chances of churn and give you more opportunities to sell too.
Which SaaS Growth Hack Are You Going to Try?
Growth hacking is an important concept for all businesses to think about. However, this kind of marketing and sales strategy can be particularly crucial for SaaS brands that are keen to make a dent in the market fast. As the software landscape continues to evolve, and more competitors enter the fray, growth hacking is your way to make sure that you have a good hold on your niche, before your customers are stolen from you.
The 20 growth hacking strategies above will give you countless fantastic opportunities to not only attract your target audience but keep them around too. You don’t need to use all of the strategies that we’ve covered to see a difference, but it’s worth experimenting with a few options to find the one that works for you.