If you’re a SaaS startup and you’re like many others, you started building your product because you saw a need in the market that needed to be filled. You may have started it as a side project and worked away on evenings and weekends trying to get an MVP ready for beta testers. Soon your beta testers were trying it and even liking it, inviting friends to join as well. Before you knew it, you were experiencing organic growth and doing zero advertising. Congrats! Your startup is growing. Now comes the hard part.
Sorry, but what? Yes, you heard me right. The organic growth path is both a blessing and a curse for SaaS startups. It’s great that your users like your product enough to recommend it to others, you want to keep that going, forever. But someday soon you may find yourself looking at your user base that has either a) stagnated, or b) grown in a way you didn’t expect and can’t manage.
Growth is great, but SaaS companies need sustainable, trackable growth, and if you’re just “letting growth happen” you could be in for a shock in the near future. If organic growth is already happening for you, now is the time to put a marketing strategy in place. Let me explain why.
The Problem with Subscriptions
Most SaaS products these days are sold on a subscription basis. The buyer journey generally looks something like:
User has a need your product may fill > User finds your product and signs up for a free trial > User finds the product useful enough to continue with a paid subscription > Users usage of your product declines over time along with their enthusiasm for it > User cancels their subscription.
I guess most people would call this a customer life-cycle. The length of this life-cycle will vary from company to company, but obviously the goal is always to make it as long as possible.
So if most of your users have come from organic means (beta testers, referrals, etc.) the danger is that your customer lifecycle is likely going to be shorter than it could be. Because if you didn’t court the user to get the sign up, chances are you’re not courting them after they’ve signed up and started paying.
This is a big problem for SaaS companies offering products or services on a subscription basis, because you need your users to keep paying you every single month, which means that you need to be valuable to them every month. How do you do that? With a strong, post-signup marketing and education strategy.
Designing Customer Success
Most users are not successful with your product by chance. If some of them keep themselves totally engaged and enthralled with your product all on their own, study these people, they can tell you a lot. We’ll call them your super users.
But not all your users can be super users. That would be like all of your friends being your best friends; it’s just not possible. So, in the meantime, you need to make all of your users feel like your best friend, and that’s going to take some work.
Some users need more encouragement and education than others, so it’s important to create user nurturing strategies for customers at all stages of the life-cycle. Simply sending out an email newsletter to your entire user list once a month is not something I would consider an effective customers success strategy.
Yes, you can automate a lot of this nurturing, but you need to determine what your user journeys are and then predict what the user wants and needs at each stage of that journey before implementing content and delivery.
Why should I be marketing to people who are already using my product?
As previously mentioned, not everyone will use your product to its maximum potential, even if they are paying users. For some users that’s fine with them, they only need your product for a few specific features, but for others, they’ll want to get maximum value out in order to keep paying you.
You can help your users use your product to its maximum potential by presenting them with content marketing relevant to their stage of usage, industry needs, and trends. This is especially true for B2B companies, where you often need buy-in from an entire group of people in order for the company to continue to pay for the product.
According to the Content Marketing Institute, the most successful organizations have a documented content strategy and deliver new content to their users and prospects consistently. The same report also states the importance of distinguishing between leads and subscribers when designing content strategies, meaning that you should have two different streams of content. Occasionally the two streams will overlap, say when there is a new feature announcement or other company news, but in general all content should be catered to each of these groups.
Start While You’re Ahead
So, even if your startup is growing “organically” and you pride yourself on not spending a penny on marketing, your better judgement should tell you that this is the perfect time to create a marketing strategy.
Just think about it, if you’re already bringing in revenue and have a consistent base of happy users/customers, this is the perfect opportunity to scale your business in a sustainable way. You’re not desperate for customers, so you can look at your product’s features and benefits in an objective way to create content that is honest and straightforward, the way people like it.