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The 4 Killer Marketing Mistakes Your SaaS Business Is Making

Once you’re an established SaaS, you’ve overcome the beginner stage issues. You’ve got users, you’ve got some word of mouth going, and things seem pretty good. But if your business team gets too complacent, you can easily stall out and flounder.

Mistakes that wouldn’t happen in a smaller scale startup can happen at an established company, because there’s more money than time, too many stakeholders on any given decision, or just because “that’s the way things have always been done,” but to keep bringing in customers and ensure the success of your business, you need to be constantly evaluating and retooling your strategies.

So what are some of those mistakes, and how can you address them? Check out the real-life examples below:

Mistake #1: Faulty assumptions of how people browse and use your website

If your company is doing well, it’s easy to assume that you know how people are using your website (or finding it, for that matter). Of course, we all know the saying about assumptions, and in this case, thinking that you know what your visitors and leads are doing without double-checking can be a huge profit leak.

Bill Rice, CEO at Kaleidico, experienced this with a client, West IP Communications. The company was well-established, but wasn’t getting a lot of marketing inquiries–in fact, despite being a healthy company, they had almost zero lead-flow from their site.

They worked with Kaleidico to revamp their entire online marketing processes (getting more traffic, optimizing that traffic, and so on), and in the process Bill found that one of the key mistakes was that they were assuming they knew how users behaved. The assumption was that people were mostly coming to their home page, and navigating through the site from there.

This, of course, is not typically the case. With West IP and other clients, Bill had noticed that businesses would set up their conversion elements (lead forms, call to actions, contact information) on the homepage…and neglect other pages.

This is especially dangerous in more complex sales situations (like enterprise tools), where multiple decision makers and/or a large investment may be involved. You might assume that the buyer wants to download an ebook or fill out a web form, and thus leave out business contact information, but what if they’d rather call and talk to a person first?

Originally, Kaleidico set up conversion-optimized landing pages that covered the software comprehensively, and then drove pay-per-click traffic to them. This is a common tactic, and one that works in a lot of situations. But it wasn’t getting the results they wanted or expected. After looking over the analytics and user behaviors, they found that users typically took one of two paths:

  1. They’d land on the page, and then move around the site to multiple other pages, before converting to a lead at some totally arbitrary point. There was no page in particular that was the tipping point, it was almost any page, as long as the user had navigated to several other pages before that.
  2. They’d come to an interior page–not even the landing page that traffic was being driven to–and then they’ll go back to that specific page over, and over, and over again. Sometimes it’s several times a day, sometimes it’s over a series of days, and after hitting that specific page 5-7 times, they convert to a lead or called the sales team.

To increase conversions from both groups, they took the aforementioned conversion elements (both contact information and lead-intake forms), and instead of focusing them on one particular landing page that they wanted users to convert on, they put them on every single page. Almost immediately after doing that, the lead flow tripled.

Michael Ortner, CEO at Capterra, had a similar situation, when the Capterra team worked with a SaaS company whose product page wasn’t converting well. They had information about the product scattered across several different pages, instead of collected in one spot.

Capterra created a dedicated landing page that had easy to skim information covering target market information, benefits and features, social proof elements, a few testimonials, and had an easy-to-fill-out free demo form at the bottom. They also added image content throughout the page to break it up. From Michael:

“By switching from a product page on the website to a landing page, our customer increased conversion rates by 350%.”

The fact that these two SaaS companies both generated huge increases in conversion rates while doing almost the complete opposite of each other tells you one thing: you can’t ever make assumptions about your user behavior.

Mistake #2: Not acknowledging your competitors

We all know that users are comparison shopping, especially in the early stages of the purchase cycle or when they’re coming to your website via search engine traffic. You might as well acknowledge it and bring it onto your website, saving them the time of clicking around and helping them make a decision faster.

Shalin Jain, founder at HappyFox, used to make this mistake–there were no mentions of industry competitors on their site at all. They decided to make an overall comparison page and a comparison page that highlights the difference between HappyFox and their three largest competitors: Zendesk, Desk, and Kayako.

Shalin says that now, their overall comparison page is one of the top ten visited pages on the website, with one of the lowest bounce rates and only a 17% exit rate. He also says the Zendesk comparison page has been especially useful:

“It has one of the lowest bounce rates, and people spend over four minutes on it on average. It’s also one of the top 10 converting pages on the site.”

There are a few side benefits, too, including increased search engine visibility. It’s also made their sales process more self-service. “We used to get a lot questions about migration to HappyFox from Zendesk customers and also some new prospects asking us to highlight some unique features we have over our competitors,” notes Shalin, adding that having the comparison page has decreased those questions from prospects.

Mistake #3: Focusing on quantity of leads, instead of quality

Remember back in mistake #1, where we discussed results that included a 3x increase in leadflow? In that case, they were quality leads, but sometimes, companies focus on quantity of leads at the cost of quality leads.

If you aren’t qualifying leads somehow, you can be overwhelming your sales team with leads that just aren’t a good fit and who won’t convert to happy, long-term customers. You’re wasting their time and your money by focusing on the wrong metric in your lead generation. But how do you do that without spending more man-hours qualifying leads?

Arham Khan, digital marketing executive at HighQ, ran into this problem. Previously, the focus had been on keeping the volume of leads being entered into the sales pipeline high. Now, they use marketing automation and workflows to improve the quality of leads before passing them on to sales. They’ve focused on the follow ways to assess user engagement and interest:

User Activity

HighQ uses marketing software to monitor user behavior on their website. They can see which leads are looking at which pages, and visiting more frequently than average. Obviously, the more often a lead visits the site, the more engaged they are, so the sales team is automatically notified after a lead has visited the site several times or several days in a row. This lets them follow up manually to see if the lead is interested in a product demo.

Content Downloads

Not surprisingly, HighQ found that leads that download more pieces of content are far more likely to convert to customers than leads that don’t download content. For them, the tipping point seems to be about three pieces of content–so once a user has downloaded three pieces of content, they’re handed over to the sales team for additional follow up.

Email Responses

In addition to the above two engagement metrics, HighQ is currently experimenting with creating automated emails that look personal, which often results in a direct response from the lead requesting a demo of the product. This saves the marketing team the effort of trying to figure out which leads are really ready to be handed over to the sales department–they can just send the sales team the demo request and off they go.

Here’s what Arham has to say about the results of this change in strategy:

The amount of leads that convert into customers has increased by 110% since we implemented this process. Also, the time taken for the sales guys to convert a lead into a paying customer has decreased by 53%.”

He credits this change to leads having all the information they need to make a decision and being much closer to the buying stage by the time they’re passed on to sales.

Mistake #4: Not actually having a content strategy (and just assuming what you’re doing is good enough)

If your business isn’t thirsty for new customers, then you might just kind of ho-hum your way through your content strategy, and assume that because you’re getting some good results, you’re doing all right. But if you aren’t going in with a strategy, you aren’t getting your best results–period.

Michael Barthelow, a project manager at LunaMetrics, worked with client Sherpa Software on doing just that. They sell enterprise software platforms for compliance and archiving of PST files, Microsoft Exchange files, and more, and have, in the past, struggled with dealing with a long lead cycle and maintaining their organic rankings.

Michael’s recommendation was for Sherpa to invest heavily in creating content and establishing themselves as a thought leader, in this case, by doing solid keyword research and creating an editorial calendar. They took the following steps:

  1. Brainstormed topics and ran those topics through keyword research with their SEO consultants.
  2. Created a full year editorial calendar in a January meeting, based around upcoming product updates and industry trade shows for the entire year, which helped them to know when they’d need supporting content for those events.
  3. Assigned individual content pieces to product team members based on the calendar, with the marketing department adding their own priorities and content to the editorial calendar as well.
  4. Created content in a variety of formats–not just blog posts, but whitepapers and videos, too–which are then shared on social media channels.
  5. Tracked the content, analyzed what’s working and what’s not, and used that to refine future content efforts that were already on the calendar.

The editorial calendar also had outreach and guest posts baked right in, and the sales team shares all of this content with prospects that are early in the sales funnel as well, getting more mileage out of it. Sherpa has now reorganized their marketing to focus on being a content champion, with everyone in the company contributing to the blog and the product experts sharing their knowledge on the company blog & social media channels. The results?

sherpa increase

sherpa conversions

As seen above, there were the following improvements:

  • User sessions on the site increased by 60%
  • New users increased by 67%
  • Conversions increased by 135%

What now?

Okay, you’re ready to stop making these mistakes. What’s next? Ask yourself the following questions and take action accordingly:

  • What assumptions am I making about how users are looking at our website or converting to customers? And how can I test those assumptions?
  • Is my website acknowledging industry competitors in any way?
  • Is the marketing team qualifying leads before passing them on to sales? Are we focusing on increasing leads at the expense of quality? How can we automate lead qualification?
  • Is my content performing the best it can? How can I create a stronger strategy for it, that incorporates internal and external events (product releases or expos, for example), as well as guest posting and PR outreach, and gives my sales team more materials to give to prospects?

About the Author: Michelle Nickolaisen is a freelance writer and content marketer based in Austin, TX. She also writes about productivity and systems for freelancers and entrepreneurs at Bombchelle.

  1. Partha Sarathi Dutta Dec 22, 2014 at 10:44 pm

    Not actually having a content strategy (and just assuming what you’re doing is good enough).. very true!

    Spending money on PPC to get leads is fine though there were always different available options as substitute of PPC.. think about it my dear business owners if you would like to taste bigger ROI!

    :-)

  2. Oleg Campbell Dec 29, 2014 at 6:01 am

    Thanks for sharing most common marketing mistakes. A great article and sharply defined mistakes to avoid!

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