SaaS Lead Generation Techniques: Effective Ways To Optimize Your Marketing

SaaS vendors are poised for happy days ahead with the cloud market stabilizing this year. Forrester reported the cloud landscape will have a 22% annual growth through 2020. Moreover, 80 percent of companies reported to be drawing revenues from cloud, with 42% saying cloud is their major income stream (according to North Bridge 2016 Survey). With more companies relying on cloud for revenues that could only mean one thing: more business for cloud vendors.

Unfortunately, the market is also getting crowded. Vendors that can address customer pain points and interest will win the game. These vendors will have a steady stream of quality leads, where the rest struggle for traffic.

In this article, we’ll show you how successful vendors are leveraging three key areas that have given them quality leads after quality leads. In fact, we’ll reveal to you how you can have more revenues from:

  • Popular SaaS review platforms
  • Laser-focused content marketing
  • Concrete social media plan

Let’s take a look at the most efficient SaaS lead generation techniques at your disposal…

5 Surprising Ways to Get Leads from SaaS Review Platforms

1. You will get organic search leads

If you’ve always thought organic leads have more chances of converting than paid leads then you’re right. The top Google search position actually enjoys a 34.36 percent clickthrough rate (according to Advanced Web Ranking, 2015).

Now put that side by side with the fact that 71 percent of B2B buyers start their product research with a generic search (according to Google 2015) and you know you should high be in Google search results.

You can either adopt costly SEO strategies that will take months, years even, to give you that page-one search position. Or, you can tap the hidden potential of B2B software review sites. 

In most cases SaaS buyers are not searching for your software, they’re searching for their best option. They do this by comparing products, shortlisting “best lists” or reading reviews.

They are searching keywords like:

  • best software category software reviews (“best business intelligence software reviews”)
  • your software vs. competitor’s software (“Wrike vs Asana”)
  • your software pros and cons (“Freshdesk pros and cons”)

Try searching for these keywords and you’ll get mostly results from top B2B software review sites like FinancesOnline, Capterra, or GetApp. You’re wondering what are major players among review platforms? We have a list of the top B2B review sites for you.

Tip: When you have a strong presence in SaaS directories, you also have a strong presence in Google search.

Google assigns a prime spot for FinancesOnline, a spot that can include your software.

2. You can turn haters to loyal customers

Only a few vendors realize that one of the SaaS lead generation strategies is to tap the hidden power of SaaS directories: negative user comments. We’re not talking about customer rants here, but honest user experience that points out your product’s shortcomings.

Bad comments are often caused by unrealistic product expectations or limited product knowledge: someone is in your basic plan and complains about lack of features; or a user berating a small business helpdesk app for its inability to address enterprise issues. This a great opportunity to showcase your product’s value proposition. While there are comments that truly identify your software’s weakness it is still an opportunity to show your stellar customer service and eagerness to work with customers to improve the product.

If you think about it, all SaaS software solutions are a work-in-progress due to the ever evolving business landscape. You should be the vendor known for his ability to match new customer needs the fastests.

You can turn their bad experience into a positive one if you address their concern. But you must do this quickly, lest your silence is taken as indifference. Not only are you winning the heart of  the aggrieved user here, but also other customers reading the comments.

Tip: Some B2B software review sites can notify you about negative user comments, so you don’t miss out the opportunity to respond.

3. You can quickly acquire more traffic and leads

Popular review platforms can attract hundreds of thousands of users each month. For example, FinancesOnline.com is visited by more than 460,000 users interested in SaaS solutions monthly. It’s traffic you can quickly add to your revenue streams and increase your lead generation ROI.

Getting listed on such platforms is almost always free. For instance, if you’re not in the FinancesOnline directory you can easily add your product here. But in most cases listing isn’t enough. As a smart marketer you want to stand out from the crowd. You can do so by tapping the marketing services offered by these sites. The offers and tools vary, but they all have one goal: to help you convert visitors into leads.

Should you pick the best review site, then? A good marketer will say yes, but a great marketer understands that betting on one platform is like putting all your eggs in one basket. You don’t want one site controlling your entire SaaS marketplace strategy, do you?

Tip: It is better to spread your lead streams across at least three sites, to optimize the results.

4. They are excellent content marketing platforms

Many SaaS directories double as B2B media sites. In general, these sites usually have two main sections: product search and editorial.

Product search includes product reviews, user ratings, comparison tables, product directories… tools that help you make a purchase decision.

Editorial, engages readers with articles, videos, infographics, tips, guides, listicles… content that engages B2B readers–your potential clients. 

Your competitors most likely already fight in product search results, so why not leverage the editorial side? As a vendor, you’re an expert in your field. You or your managers have industry and professional insights they can share with B2B readers: reports, surveys, tips, or case studies. SaaS directories love value content and they’ll love you for sharing your authoritative market insights or advice.

Tip: If you want to tap this lead stream, contact the editors of B2B software review sites.

5. Your competitor’s unhappy customer is a potential lead

Imagine having access to your competitor’s customer relationship database. You can see its nagging issues and how the vendor handles them. In short, you can see your competitor’s strengths and, more tellingly, potential weaknesses. This is information you’ll pay thousands of dollars for to a corporate sleuth.

But there’s a more ethical and cheaper way to check on the competition: SaaS directories. If you’re not reading user comments on your competitor’s page on B2B software sites, you’re wasting potential leads. One vendor’s unhappy customer is another one’s lead.

We don’t advise you cut into your competitor’s page like a raging pitbull–that’s cheap. Rather, work around clues revealed by the user, for instance, his company name and position or LinkedIn or Facebook page. You can engage him elsewhere and frame your product around his issues with your competitor.

Tip: Want customers to listen to you? Listen to their problem.

Top 5 SaaS Review Platforms

1. FinancesOnline.com

FinancesOnline is one of the most effective SaaS platforms out there, and by effective we mean its average 11 to 23 percent conversion rates. This is significantly higher then what other platforms have to offer. For example, Capterra’s PPC conversion rate is estimated at 7 percent.

FinancesOnline enjoys over 460,000 visits from people interested in SaaS and B2B solutions each month. That’s thousands of potential customers for your product. In most cases though, you will have to beat your rivals from the same niche so a simple free listing is not an optimal solution. We have tested two efficient ways that can boosted conversion rates in their SaaS directory: content campaigns and premium product listing.

If you want to enjoy the same conversion rates and ROI as the leading vendors, you can request a premium review of your product. The marketing team should help you work out your budget, specific needs and develop a targeted campaign for your software. Some efficient promotion methods we found were market analyses, comparison pages, and case studies that present your product and its key benefits to thousands of readers visiting the platform each day.

What is more, getting and edge over your competition is also possible with premium listing features such as:

  1. Having your software featured as leader on category pages
  2. Having your software included on top 10 or top 3 lists
  3. Featuring your software on comparison pages of your competitors’ products
  4. Having your software suggested as the best alternative on your competitors’ review pages

There’s also another great way to distinguish your software from the competition. Winning an industry award can actually boost your conversion rate by 5%. Many excellent solutions fail to garner industry recognition for lack of publicity or vendor clout, or simply because the software is new. So, if your software has excellent features, great customer support or supreme UI design it’s quite likely that FinancesOnline review team will distinguish it with a prestigious award. Winning such an award will not only help you increase your conversion rates and draw more leads from your competition which doesn’t have any awards, but SaaS awards are also a great way to improve your brand recognition and something you can brag about in media or on your website. Awards are a factor that can really increate the trust people have in your product and, consequently, encourage them to try it out. If you want to learn more about what can be done to promote your software you can simply request a premium listing for your product for a full marketing offer tailored to your needs and budget.

2. Capterra

Capterra is another good PPC platform for vendors. It features 400+ product categories from applicant tracking to yoga studio software. With 100,000 user ratings and reviews in its database, you may want to check it for conversations about your software.

Founded in 1999, Capterra has a well-established traffic traction. It claims two million visits monthly and, expectedly, it’s crowded with business applications. This means more competition for vendors like you, but the potential is there.

Think of it as a big busy mall. Gaining visibility here is harder and demands more effort and budget to stand out. PPC rates start at $2, but the bidding system they use is guaranteed to jack up the price quickly for competitive categories. While it is solid way to market your product we found it to be more expensive than FinancesOnline with lower conversion rates at the same time (most likely due to more fierce competition that can quickly drain your marketing budget).

If you want to explore Capterra marketing opportunities, it has two simple promotional channels: basic and PPC listing.

The basic plan is free and includes:

  • Presence across their Gartner Digital Markets network
  • Listing in the product reviews & ratings
  • Detailed product profile

Meanwhile, PPC listing, which starts at $2 per click, includes all the basic benefits plus:

  • Premium placement in software directory
  • Multiple links to your website or landing page
  • Activity reporting & analytics

3. G2crowd

G2Crowd is one of the newest B2B software marketplaces out there, launched in 2012. It leverages its base of more than 100,000 user reviews to help buyers make better purchase decisions.

Like any standard SaaS review platform, G2Crowd lets its users rate your software by factors such as ease of setup, security, usability, administration, ease of use, and customer support.

It also has a unique review tool called The Grid. It’s a visual quadrant that shows the leaders, contenders, high performers, and niche among software in a given category. Using its proprietary algorithm, G2Crowd calculates the software’s market presence and customer satisfaction and assigns it a place on the quadrant.

For users, the tool is a quick way to judge their choices. For vendors, however, The Grid can contradict your value proposition, especially if you’re in the habit of claiming you’re number one, and you suddenly find your competition above you on The Grid.

G2Crowd isn’t explicit about its customized solution for vendors, so you need to contact them for a tailored offer. Here’s what G2Crowd promises to deliver when you partner with them though:

  • Increased traffic
  • Third-party validation
  • Data points to get market insight
  • Product improvement

4. Software Advice

Another solid SaaS review platform is called Software Advice. Like our top three directories above, it provides detailed reviews of software solutions across 385 categories. The company also claims to have advised as much as 451,996 buyers so far.

What’s unique about Software Advice is it acts like an inbound contact center as well. It offers free phone consultations with buyers to help them shortlist their options. Likewise, to maintain their core service, the company said it focuses only on select categories.  

You have two options to get SaaS leads from them: free listing and pay-per-lead campaigns. To list your software, head straight to their website and fill out a contact form. For qualified leads, you need to call their business development team who’ll explain the details. Software Advice also offers affiliate marketing setup with vendors.

Here are Software Advice key value propositions:

  • 300,000+ leads delivered to vendors
  • Phone qualification by their software experts
  • Access to serious buyers, even in niche markets
  • Flexibility to meet your timeline and budget

5. GetApp

With 3.5 million visitors every month, GetApp is one of the biggest SaaS marketplaces out there. Founded in 2010 and headquartered in Barcelona, Spain, it has recently been acquired by Gartner Digital Markets. 

The directory boasts more than 100,000 ratings and user reviews of around 28,000 listed applications. These are big numbers that can deliver quality leads, but most likely you need to enter into a marketing partnership with them to stand out. They do offer free listing however, just visit the website to add your product to their listing.

Although GetApp does not publish much information about its marketing services, it works based of the same affiliate business model as do most SaaS directories: mostly PPC lead generation campaigns.

GetApp features three good content traffic streams off their homepage, namely:

  • App Highlights for the month
  • Trending business apps
  • Recently reviewed apps

As one of the biggest SaaS marketplaces, you can expect to get quality traffic from GetApp though the conversion rates may vary significantly.

6 Ways To Rethink Your Content Marketing

B2B marketers are discovering two ways content marketing drives more leads: attracting customers by their interests and opening engagement with prospects (“The Campaign Confidence Gap.” Demand Gen Report, 2016).

Furthermore, 66 percent of marketers surveyed in the report said they saw the biggest response to their content-enabled promotion at the top of the funnel. This is important to note. Make sure you have a mechanism to trace a conversion back to which content led the prospect to your doorstep, no matter the time gap.

It can be days or months, even years, before a lead converts. That’s the real ROI of your content strategy, not the number of downloads or views during the campaign.

Content doesn’t exist in a vacuum. It requires planning. If you’ve been publishing endlessly and aren’t getting any leads, it’s time to re-evaluate your content strategy.

Successful B2B companies use all, or at least a combination, of these SaaS lead generation techniques to get qualified customers:

1. Don’t just create content, align it with your prospect’s interests

You can appeal to your prospect’s profession, position, or to the industry they belong to. Likewise, you can address their work issues and you’ll earn their second look.

Hank Nothhaft, Jr. writing for VentureBeat said that the “best software ROI most enterprises will realize this year will come from department-specific implementations of solutions.

So, when crafting content don’t just look at the company, but the different people comprising it. Is he a project manager? The latest leadership trends may interest him. Does she engage in consultancy? You’ll be loved for sharing client relationship tips. Is data security a top concern of the CFO?

Case study: Bottom Technologies understood this was an unnerving problem of its prospects. It developed a best-practice guide to help banks fight cyber fraud. After sending the whitepaper to its mailing list, the campaign got 1,476 opened emails with 708 click-throughs. That’s 48 percent open rate that no product pitch can match.

The more focused your content the higher the chances it will find its target.

2. Humor can work in B2B, too

How many people would watch your testimonials if you post them on your social channel? Ten, twenty, maybe thirty, tops? Cisco got 1,331. And all because it used humor. Yes, humor can work in B2B if done with taste and a little punch.

Cisco’s Slow Waiter web series is a set of testimonials from real CIOs turned to mockup movie trailers. The CIOs are explaining to a dimwit waiter how effective their IT strategies are, but their insights just won’t just sink in in his mind. It’s a subtle jab at one of the CIO’s pain points–explaining technology to the rest of the company.

Cisco put beer can, pork chops, dinner rolls and a dimwit waiter into the picture and drew attention to its testimonials.

3. Be your own media company to attract media

As vendor of a topnotch product you exude authority to talk about the issues in your category. Why not translate this expertise and provide your prospects with industry news and analyses that matter to them?

Thought leadership is real, not just a buzzword. But it isn’t for everybody. The vendor who whips up the courage to invest time and money usually wins more prospects. Take IBM for example.

The company created an entire media site for information security professionals. Topics range from security benchmarking to Internet-of-Things patches; from IP theft to malware updates. The topics are so industry-specific that The New York Times and BBC use the site as a resource. Even Google is giving page-one ranking to many of the IBM’s articles as recognition of its content authority. If someone tells you thought leadership is a bubble idea in lead generation, show them the IBM experience.

As news of malware prevalence in Brazil spread last July, data security professionals—potential leads—searched the net and found IBM’’s media site SecurityIntelligence.com on top spot, a sweet spot for thousands of leads.

4. Tap the top 5 content formats

Unless you’re Steve Jobs, why reinvent the wheel when you can use what’s already working for successful marketers? According to the “The Campaign Confidence Gap (Demand Gen Report, 2016), the top five formats used by B2B marketers are:

  • Video
  • Surveys
  • Interactive infographics
  • ROI calculators
  • Assessments

SAP used a slew of these content forms to target CMOs. It presented webinars, videos, whitepapers, infographics, slide decks, and interviews. The result is a compelling collection of materials that are fed through the vendor’s social media, blog, and mailing list.

We don’t know what the result would have been if SAP simply wrote blog posts. What we know is that the mix of varied content forms collectively earned the company 2,000 site visits, 1,400 unique users, and 435 leads.

A whitepaper, video, and analysis tool worked for SAP and should work for you, too.

5. Maximize the potential of content with repurposing

Your content should be gold, not trash. Give it real value so that your prospects will come wanting for more. And since you worked hard for it, you deserve to juice it out for all the mileage it can give.

For example, you ran a webinar on how to transition smoothly to cloud. Here’s how to create six more value materials targeting different sets of leads:

  • Post a replay YouTube video – for those who missed the webinar and as future resource for others; also good for SEO
  • Transcribe it to a downloadable PDF – to target another set of audience, you can tweak the content and align it to their interest
  • Record a podcast version – for mobile users or people with video streaming problem
  • Transcribe it as an article – for your blog readers and as an SEO tactic
  • Create a SlideShare version – to target LinkedIn users or as material for your speaking engagements
  • Make an infographic variation – to outreach to other sites for link-building and more mileage

Case study: Demandbase created an ebook on account-based marketing for prospects. But it didn’t stop there. It repurposed the content into an infographic, blog post, video, and even an interactive quiz to cover a wider area. Overall, the vendor got 950 downloads, 960% direct ROI, and $8 million worth of potential leads.

One content to rule them all—in different formats.

6. Create industry reports to win attention

Talk about the industry and right away you project authority. Malcolm Gladwell, author of  bestsellers The Tipping Point and Outliers, is seen by many as one of the most influential minds in marketing and management. And he’s not even a marketer or a manager. He’s a journalist. He wrote a lot about contrarian views on behavioral sciences that impact brands and companies. Suddenly many CEOs, marketers, and managers found his books insightful and useful.

You can be an expert in your category, writing about the issues your software is solving or the industry it belongs to. Industry reports, in particular, are useful to your prospects. They want to know what’s going on in their professional and business spheres. Prospects are literally waiting for you to share your thoughts.

Case study: Oracle Marketing Cloud used this tactic and got the attention. It released an annual report on the twenty best digital branding and marketing campaigns. The campaign resulted in 3,500 downloads, 1,581 new contacts, and 1,226 qualified leads.

How To Have a Concrete Social Media Plan

Having nice content isn’t enough. You need to promote it on your social channels.

Did you know B2B buyers also use social media during the buying process? More critically, IDC reported that 84% of C-level executives—prospects with decision-making authority—use social media for product research.

And if Microsoft was willing to pay $26.2 billion to buy LinkedIn last year, we definitely know social media is key to B2B marketing.

“Social media and social selling can accelerate finding, managing and closing business.”

– Matt Heinz, President of Heinz Marketing

The key to getting leads off social media is to have a plan. Here’s how you can be an expert in getting leads from social media:

1. Ten steps for traffic momentum

Don’t just post your content on all social channels at once. They’ll cannibalize each other’s traffic. Rather, pace the posting to build up momentum. Using the steps to maximize content exposure shared by Jayson DeMers as guide, you can divide the schedule between inbound (your social channels) and outbound (other people’s social channels):

Tip: Don’t forget to use the right hashtag and @mention

Inbound

1 minute Post on Twitter
2 minutes Post on Facebook (option to boost post)
4 minutes Post on LinkedIn (option to buy LinkedIn ads)
5 minutes Post on Instagram (make it visual)
7 minutes Post on Pinterest (make it visual)

Outbound

20 minutes Submit to StumbleUpon (option to buy ads)
22 minutes Submit to reddit (target the right subreddit)
25 minutes Share in relevant LinkedIn groups
30 minutes Share in relevant Facebook groups
2 hours Share to answer relevant Quora or Yahoo! Answers issues

2. Tap these 4 less tapped social networks

You can get additional leads when you go beyond Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and SlideShare. In fact, if you follow the steps above, you just used four of the largely untapped yet powerful social networks that work well in B2B marketing landscape:

  • Quora – look for questions that your content answers and post a link to your material
  • Yahoo! Answers – similar to Quora
  • Reddit – look for a subreddit (group) with conversations relevant to your content and subtly post a link as an answer or added facts to the discussion at hand
  • StumbleUpon submit a link to your content and select the category (software, business, marketing, management, HR, etc.)

The CRM vendor who can answer this convincingly wins a lot of quality leads.

3. Reach out to influencers

Here’s another benefit you can enjoy when you put real value in your content: your reputation as an industry observer helps you to connect to influencers.

Take any industry report or survey. It has plenty of talking points to engage influencers. You can discuss trends, best practices, tips, things that industry observers love to talk about. That report is your ticket to the exclusive club of people who exert influence on your prospects.

But who is an influencer? This, in fact, is your first step to having a successful influencer marketing campaign. Remember, if you don’t bring influencers to your sphere, your competitors will. So follow these steps if you want to get more quality leads than they do:

Define influencers – they are perceived experts by your prospects. They are read, followed, or engaged in social media. They can be business journalists, CEOs, authors, academic scholars, anyone whose opinion shapes your prospects’ views.

Find influencers – narrow your focus to groups and media sites that discuss your niche. If you sell cyber security apps, zero in on topics like identity thefts, bank frauds, cybercrimes, and relevant topics. Finding influencers isn’t a numbers game. Although having thousands of followers helps, go beyond this easily manipulated metric. Check for people who attract engagement. They are the real influencers.

Tip: Don’t forget industry events, you can check keynote speakers as potential influencers.

  • Contact influencers – Don’t pitch a marketing arrangement right away, but present your content as point of contact. Research your targeted influencers’ choice of topics, stand on certain issues, etc. and align your approach with that.
  • Build relationships not contracts – Once they agree to partner with you, treat them as partners, not paid hacks. Respect their reputation, so don’t push your commercial interest down their throat. Work out a long-term relationship.  
  • Measure outcomes – Not all influencers will deliver quality leads. Shortlist the performers and focus your budget, time, and attention on them.

Case study: Maersk Line used engaging questions and compelling content like images and links to nurture discussions with industry opinion-makers in LinkedIn. The move allowed the company to gain deeper market insight and get closer to highly qualified prospects. Maersk put itself in the background and instead talked about its client’s success, and LinkedIn readers seemed to like it (160+ views).

4. Leverage LinkedIn, the top professional social network

If you find yourself using LinkedIn when reaching out to influencers, you’re on the right track.

It’s the Facebook of professionals, including your C-level prospects. IDC reported over half of B2B buyers used LinkedIn to reinforce their buying decision. The same report said the social network is “the number one information preference of buyers in the final stage of the purchase process.

But are you using its full potential? Are you tapping the LinkedIn Influencer Program?

The LinkedIn Influencer Program connects you to potential experts in your field. LinkedIn selects this elite group and sorts them by category. Once you narrow down a category that fits your area, you can do the following to attract their attention:

  • Share their content highlighting its key points and value
  • Be among the first to comment on their post
  • Get ideas from their post and do a relevant content that follows up or reinforces their post, then call their attention to it

Watch out for LinkedIn member posts with high engagement, an influencer may be behind them.

5. Use social signals to align your next campaign

Social media is also a good platform to listen to your market. When you build your campaign around what your prospects are already talking about on social media, your campaign is likely to get more leads.

Case study: Socedo, a demand generation system for B2B marketers, reported an average of 45 percent open rate on its emails based on social conversations. The same email marketing campaign got a 5.1 percent click-through rate, double than its usual emails that didn’t use social signals.

Takeaways

  1. SaaS review platforms can deliver organic search leads
  2. Tap at lest three of the top SaaS directories
  3. Develop content that is aligned with your prospect’s interests
  4. Use humor in your campaign, it works
  5. Repurpose content and maximize its benefits
  6. Develop industry reports, they lend you authority
  7. Have a concrete social media plan
  8. Tap less used social networks like Reddit or Quora
  9. Tap influencers
  10. Leverage LinkedIn Influencer Programs

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