Creating a new SaaS application is exciting.
There seem to be apps for everything these days, but it doesn’t mean that they’re all good.
We’ve all worked with apps and services that don’t do what they promised or we realize that we don’t really need them.
But we’ve also used apps that really help us with something our life. It could be something that’s fun. It could be something that helps us with our personal life or it could help with our professional life.
The challenge, both for users and for the app owners, is marketing.
Potential users want to know what apps can help them and it’s up to the company to make sure that happens.
That’s where a good marketing plan comes in.
Here are the steps to create a marketing plan for your SaaS application.
Step 1. Target Customer
I think most marketing plans that are successful start with a target customer or target user.
You might not know everything and the customer could change as you get into the venture, but it helps to have a specific person in mind when you’re starting out.
This actually helps with the development of the application in the first place. You likely had someone in mind, perhaps yourself, when you were creating the app and that’s good.
Transfer that information over to your thinking from a marketing perspective. You’ll want to consider all the aspects that make that person tick – who they are, what they like to do, where they work, what they’re interested in, where they spend their time, etc.
Step 2. Long-Term Vision
Next up is something that can easily get overlooked.
It’s important to have a long-term vision for you company and specifically about what you want the company to become. And within this vision is the long-term marketing plan or the strategies you’ll do that will position you to have incoming customers in the long-term.
Usually, long-term sales streams or user acquisition streams take time to build so patience is key.
With any business, there are short-term pressures with sales and user acquisition. That’s good because it can push you to make things happen in the short-term and you’ll probably need to do that in the early stages with things like cold calling and outreach, but while you’re doing that don’t overlook the long-term efforts that will pay off and help alleviate those short-term pressures.
But you’ll never get there if you only focus on getting a sale today and not on building something strong for the future.
Step 3. Sales Process
The next step is determining your sales process.
And you might not know this until you get a few customers. And it might change over time as you learn more with each new customer.
But from the beginning, pay attention and even document the entire process. Note how someone comes to you asking about your SaaS app. Or if you reached out to them document that process and how they reacted.
The sales cycle works from the first point of contact or discovery and moves all the way to the sale.
The way you’ll market to your target customer are determined by your sales cycle.
For some SaaS apps that might be short where a customer sees an ad and thinks that the app sounds good and they download it.
But more likely you’ll have the discover stage, the service stage, the details stage, the getting to know you stage and the buying stage.
Step 4. Late Cycle
Late cycle marketing includes the efforts you’ll do for people that know they need your service or product. They might know that they need your service or they might know that they need a service like yours.
This is often the highest converting form of marketing because the leads are already well into your sales cycle. You don’t need to foster the sale because the person already knows that they have a need.
You can use various forms of marketing to sell a late cycle lead on your product including your website (it’s your salesperson) to ads on Google or Facebook or in a magazine or where to even organic listings for your homepage, but that will take time to build.
When people are searching for your specific product or for the product you offer (but not your brand) they are late in the sales cycle.
And that’s an important distinction in marketing.
Step 5. Early Cycle
Early cycle is one that is often overlooked. This is where you build and audience and connections. You’re still targeting your target customer, but they’re not looking for your product at this time.
Think about your own life.
For example, my wife and I don’t eat out that often; let’s say once a month.
Each time we eat out we think about where we should eat. At that point we’re in the late stages of the sales cycle. We know we want to eat out. We might even know where.
But that stage for us is only about an hour out of an entire month. One tenth of one percent of each month we are in the late stages of eating out.
But we can still be influenced the other 99.9% of the time.
This happens in a number of ways. We might see a restaurant owner being interviewed on the news. We might read an article in the newspaper. We might read a blog post about something else we searched for online like an article about healthy foods or foods to reduce blood pressure or something.
If that happens we unconsciously bookmark that and come back to it when we’re in the late stages of the sales cycle. We realize we want to eat out and we say, “Remember that place we read about a few weeks ago?”
That’s how discover works and it’s important to have a marketing plan for early stage because over 90% of the time your target customers aren’t thinking about you, but you still want them to discover you even if they aren’t ready to buy right now.
It’s a good long-term outlook on marketing.
And you can still do it with things like blogging, public relations, social media and more.
My big thing with a marketing plan is to have both a focus on the short and long-term. I think it’s healthy to put short-term pressure on yourself to get new users for your SaaS app, but not at the expense of losing long-term perspective.
For example, you can invest in online advertising with Google focusing specifically on late funnel target customers while investing also in a long-term blogging strategy to work on building an audience for your early stage funnel target customers.
Take that approach with your SaaS marketing plan and you’ll be in good shape especially since your competition is probably focusing too much on the late stages of the cycle.