Traditional channels, like direct mail, conferences and trade shows only reach relatively small audiences, but advancements in digital marketing, SEO, and targeted pay-per-click (PPC) campaigns provide a tremendous opportunity for B2B SaaS companies to sell directly online or drive qualified leads to their inside sales teams. Now, software companies can reach a highly-targeted mass audience that consists of people looking for your product and reducing the average cost per lead.
The length of a SaaS sales cycle varies. If your software is complex, you’re selling to new markets, or you’re targeting enterprise-level businesses it usually takes longer for prospects to make buying decisions. For this reason, you need to maintain a robust sales pipeline. But how do you keep prospects moving towards the ultimate end goal of closing the sale? By using the best conversion tools!
Whether you own a startup or you’ve been selling web-based software solutions for years, it’s imperative to have solid marketing strategies in place that utilize the best conversion tools for the technology industry.
This article begins by reviewing the different stages customers go through when making purchasing decisions. We’ll explain how you can optimize the customer’s journey as they maneuver the “buying funnel” (a.k.a. sales funnel or purchase funnel). Then we’ll outline the conversion tools that work best at each stage of the journey, including nurturing leads, communicating features and benefits, demonstrating capabilities, and converting prospects into customers.
Now let’s get started.
Also referred to as the sales funnel, marketing funnel or purchase funnel, it’s the process of acquiring customers. The funnel outlines typical stages a buyer goes through during the purchasing process, from initial awareness to becoming a loyal, repeat customer.
There are 6 stages in the funnel and prospects can enter at any point. Not everyone starts at the beginning or moves through the stages in any specific order. In fact, some prospects may skip stages entirely or move backwards to a previous stage.
The reason it’s a funnel is because you will lose potential customers along the way, like in this marketing funnel example that helps visualize a customer’s journey.
The importance of understanding where consumers are within the buyer’s journey and the funnel cannot be stressed enough. With this understanding, you can put marketing strategies in place to help engage, educate, and convert leads into customers at any point in the buying process. You can also maximize the value you bring at each stage by providing the right marketing initiatives and increase conversion with appropriate calls to action.
This is where the customer’s journey usually starts and is the widest part of the funnel, at the top. At this initial stage, people are aware that they have a pain, or problem, and they are aware that your software may be a potential solution.
Maybe they discovered your software by watching a video on Facebook or YouTube, or by doing an online search. These people, or leads, are just beginning to get information and may visit your website to get a general understanding of who you are and what you offer.
The awareness stage attracts new leads, helps launch a new product or promote a new feature on an existing product.
We’ve already established that the buying funnel is not actually linear, and is instead meant to help you understand the stages a prospect may go through when making a purchasing decision. This understanding helps determine which marketing initiatives, or actions, are the most effective at each stage. Since a prospect can enter the funnel at any stage, marketing actions can occur before or after the different stages of the buying funnel as well.
Examples of Marketing Actions:
Marketing Actions and the Funnel
Marketing Action: You create short, exciting videos about your software and share them via social media to create Awareness.
Marketing Action: You provide additional media, like more detailed videos on specific features of the software or customer testimonials, on your website to further educate prospects on the software to create Engagement.
Marketing Action: You offer newsletters, white papers, and demos or trials of the software to entice a Conversion.
Marketing Action: You follow up with prospects, outlining the next steps, moving them through conversions and Nurturing the leads.
Marketing Action: After Closing a sale, you thank the customer for their purchase and continue to provide quality customer service and valuable resources to keep them happy and create loyalty. To assist in providing quality customer service you can use customer support tools that are designed to help streamline customer service operations and reduce the amount of time it takes to respond to customer queries.
Marketing Action: You keep in touch with existing customers (the low hanging fruit), keeping them informed of new features and upgrades by Upselling.
The next several chapters outline each marketing action in detail and explain their importance.
Zach Bulygo, NeilPatel.com
...attract and keep people’s attention
...help promote a new product or service
...explain things better
...are easy to share via social media
Explainer videos are a dynamic and fun way to create awareness and explain your software, while interview videos let you use tone of voice and facial expressions to build trust.
Animated explainer videos have become a de facto industry standard. While they perform well at any stage of the buying process, explainer videos are a great way to create awareness to those prospects just entering the buying funnel. Here are 17 examples of fabulous explainer videos to check out.
In a previous video, we discussed how to leverage explainer videos in your Saas marketing strategy by making sure they are entertaining and informative.
A short, entertaining, explainer video can hook new prospects by sharing features, benefits, value props, and problems your software solves. It can also work at the other end of the funnel by providing valuable information to highly-qualified leads close to making a buying decision.
Here are some best practices to consider when making an explainer video.
Explainer videos should last about ninety seconds or less, as viewers have short attention spans.
Explainer videos usually follow a “problem-fix-outcome” model. They provide a quick explanation about the general features and benefits of the software and how they help customers solve their pain points.
The visual style is usually animation, but explainer videos can also be created using screen recordings. Animation can range from motion graphics to cartoons, and the voice over should reflect the tone of your brand.
Note: If using screen recordings to create a video, it’s imperative that the video is done well to avoid it looking too amateur or cheap. Remember, all the marketing content you create is a reflection of your company, products, and services. If your videos look cheap, people may assume your software is cheap as well.
As with anything else, you usually get what you pay for. That’s why choosing the right video partner is crucial to video marketing success.
What Prospects Hear
It’s best to work with a professional who can write a script that keeps the integrity of your brand intact; one that captures the persona, tone, language and voice of your brand.
What Prospects See
The animation should also capture the right “feeling;” for example, is your company culture youthful or corporate?
Explainer videos are primarily used to create awareness, but can be useful at almost any stage in the buying funnel.
Send to a list of qualified leads who have made at least one conversion
Send to prospects ready to make a decision, but need a nudge
Send to existing customers about new features or upgrades
Another option is to create one high-level explainer video that provides a general overview and three to four shorter “micro” videos (about 45 seconds long) that highlight individual features of the software.
Micro videos can easily be sent to current customers to upsell them on new features or upgrades or as another promotional tool.
For example, if you have existing customers still using an old version of your software and you want to move them over to an upgraded version, sending customers a short explainer video is a great way to show them the benefits of why they should upgrade.
Interview videos fall somewhere between the engagement and conversion stages of the buying funnel, as they create validation. These videos are usually interviews with team members or customers talking about the benefits of the software.
Interview videos are different from explainer videos because they are made using people and not animation. When prospects see your face and hear your voice, it assures them that you are a real person and evokes a sense of trust.
How professional do you want to come across?
If you want the visual, the sound, and the message to match your brand, don’t cut corners by trying to create an interview video yourself. Just because other people use their smartphones to make videos doesn’t mean you should. Viewers can tell if a video is low quality and may translate that feeling to your software.
Unlike explainer videos, interview videos should not be scripted. Why? When reading from a script, a person’s words don’t sound as real. Unscripted interviews come across as more authentic.
As with explainer videos, when it comes to interview videos, you get what you paid for. Here are some advantages of using a professional to help create a great interview video.
Todd Johnson, Managing Director @ Avatar New York
"Deciding to change a website’s layout is one of the most important considerations during a redesign. Layout changes inevitably require changes to other layers, which may not have been anticipated before the changes occurred."
Product tours are great for the second stage of the buying funnel, which is engagement. At this stage, prospects are already aware of the software and now you need to effectively explain the features and benefits.
Product tours provide in-depth explanations of features and benefits and should include visuals of your software in action using text, graphics, screenshots or video. The goal is to get prospects interested and excited with what your products have to offer.
Many prospects won’t gain trust before seeing (at least) screenshots of the software’s features and functionality. It’s a type of validation. Letting prospects “try” the software can increase conversion.
If someone doesn’t understand what your software does or the benefits it provides, they probably aren’t going to buy it. Here’s more info on how to use a product tour to highlight your software.
Use analytics to track user behavior such as click throughs to the tour, the most viewed sections, where people drop off, and how many watch all way through. If analytics show that prospects are only looking at half of the features in the tour, reduce, reorganize and revise for improvement.
In a previous video, we discussed the importance for software companies to incorporate product tours into their sales cycle. Here are some best practices to be mindful of when creating a tour.
Product tours usually last 2 to 10 minutes, depending on the complexity of the software.
Sometimes it can be difficult to decide what to omit in order to keep the tour at a reasonable length. Are there 20 great features you want to mention? Try to reduce it to the top 10, as too many can be overwhelming.
Make sure your product tour consists of quality shots of the software product and enough information for prospects to make a decision. - screenshots or illustrated versions.
After watching a product tour, what should prospects do next? If you want them to get a demo or trial of the software, provide a strong and simple call to action such as, “Sign up for a Demo” or “Get a Trial.”
Regular video tours can be attention-grabbing, creative and informative. A major drawback, however, is prospects are forced to listen to the entire tour in the order it was created.
Self-guided or interactive tours, on the other hand, increase user engagement because prospects have the freedom to explore the software in their own way, allowing them to skip ahead to sections that are most important to them.
Interactivity provides a wide range of ways to show valuable information. Take advantage of cool features by enabling prospects to hover over sections to activate pop-up blurbs that provide even more information.
A hybrid tour allows prospects to click through different sections of a product tour without having total control of their experience. It’s more interactive than a regular video, letting people choose, click and view screenshots at their own pace as they learn the details of the software.
Zach Bulygo, NeilPatel.com
"MOST companies are too caught up in the “business as usual syndrome”, and they rarely take a second to stop and think about really focusing on conversion optimization."
Product demos usually work well in the third stage of the buying funnel, conversion. At this stage, prospects are aware of the software, maybe from watching an explainer video, and may have also completed a product tour, so they know the software’s features match their needs.
Now, you need to convince prospects to take a step further.
Software product demos usually use pre-filled data to replicate a user’s experience. This allows prospects to experience the software at a level that’s pretty close to a trial without signing up for anything or paying any money.
A software product demo shouldn’t be only about the company and the software itself. A demo should focus on the prospects and their pains. How? Showcase the value and features of the software by translating them into benefits.
Whether a salesperson walks a prospect through a demo or the prospect is left to explore on their own, demos let people try software on a more in-depth level to get a better understanding of how it works.
No Cost and No Obligation
Software demos are an easy way to demonstrate value without requiring prospects to make an upfront payment. Watch this video about using software demos in your marketing strategy to get more information.
Try it Before You Buy It
A demo is like a model home. It’s pre-filled with data and laid out perfectly so prospects get a good idea what it would be like to use the software with their own data and information.
Super Size and Customize
If you can tailor the demo to the individual prospect it’s even better. FInd out as much as you can before the demo. Are prospects currently using a competitor’s software product? If so, focus on features of your software that are superior.
Keep Prospects Moving
Once a prospect is done experiencing the software product demo, help them get to the next step by providing effective calls to action that move them to a trial or a purchase. Another option is to push them into an email campaign so you can follow up and nurture while they consider making a purchase.
Product trials are recommended in the closing stage of the buying funnel, right before prospects are ready to make a purchase. Different from a demo, people need to sign up for a trial before they can use it.
A trial is a great way to let your software sell itself. Here’s a video on how to increase software sales using trials.
Trials allow prospects to self-educate, which is more effective than when they just speak with a sales rep, giving them more time to make an informed decision.
Freedom to Roam
Trials allow prospects to play around as much as they want for a specified period of time, usually 7, 14 or 30 days.
Shorter Sales Cycle
Trials not only demonstrate the value of the software and improve the prospect’s experience, they can also shorten the sales cycle and reduce customer acquisition cost.
Consider your target audience and what’s best for your company. The number of days a trial should last depends on how long prospects need to effectively evaluate your software.
Short Trial Periods
One strategy of a short trial period is prospects have a smaller window to make a decision, like 7 to 10 days. The goal is to get them to make a decision faster and buy sooner.
Potential Pitfall: If the software is too complex to understand in a short time period it could be detrimental to sales, leaving prospects frustrated enough to look elsewhere.
Conclusion: If the software is simple enough to make a decision relatively quickly, keep the trial period short so a purchase can happen sooner, before the prospect forgets.
Long Trial Periods
Longer trial periods, like 30 day trials, give prospects more time to try out complex features and really understand the benefits as they relate to them.
Potential Pitfall: With a longer trial period, the final sale could be delayed.
Conclusion: Without enough time a prospect may get frustrated, so the more complicated the software, the longer the trial period should be.
Should you make prospects pay for a software trial, or should it be free? There are pros and cons to each option.
Free Software Trials
Free trials get more takers, while paid trials get more serious takers. Everyone wants something for free, right?
The problem is they may not really be interested. We discussed how to optimize free trials for your software company in a previous article.
Paid Software Trials
People who pay for a trial are definitely more qualified prospects since they already have some skin in the game. Paying for the trial is, essentially, your first sale to them and usually the hardest one to make.
Pay Upfront, Then Reimburse
If someone decides they are not interested after the trial and want their money back, make sure it’s easy for them to cancel and be reimbursed.
Get Credit Card Upfront
Asking for a credit card number upfront reduces your conversion rate, but you’ll have more serious prospects in your funnel.
Low Monthly Cost
Cost makes a difference. You’ll get more takers charging $15.00 a month versus $500.00 a month because it is a lower risk.
Freemiums provide access to part of a software product to prospects free of charge, without a time limit. But they have to pay to upgrade to better, more robust, premium, features. Freemiums are great for prospects at the end of the funnel to help drive them to the sale.
A benefit for prospects is they get some amount of value over a long period of time - for free. The hope is they will love your software so much that they want more features, and are willing to pay for them. They are a great way to upsell to people already under the influence of your brand.
Freemiums can also attract cheapskates who don’t want to part with their money and will only use the free features of your software.
Dom Nicastro, CMS Wire
Hastily selected WCM platforms will create plenty of adventure and excitement for you and your team. It just won't be the sort of excitement you expected. The wrong CMS means your organization won't realize the promise of return on investment (ROI) that justified the project in the first place
There is value in giving webinars, whether live or pre-recorded, but which type is best for you?
During a live webinar, you present information electronically to an audience and talk to them in real-time.
Pros of Live Webinars
It’s always better to react in real-time, when their engagement level is high. With live webinars you get instant feedback, it’s easier to connect with your audience, and you can answer questions and address concerns on the spot.
Cons of Live Webinars
Since webinars are scheduled well in advance, you have to honor your commitment and present on the day and at the time promised. Also, you may have to give the webinar more than once, to different audiences, which can get a bit boring and repetitive.
Pre-recorded webinars are created in advance and the audience needs to login at a specified day and time to view it. This type of presentation generally works in the same way as a live one, except you’ve already recorded it so you don’t need to be present.
Pros of Pre-Recorded Webinars
A major advantage of pre-recorded webinars is you can take your time editing and perfecting your presentation as much as you like. Plus, you won’t experience the anxiety of talking to a live audience.
Cons of Pre-Recorded Webinars
Pre-recorded webinars cannot be modified while playing, so the presentation can’t change direction on the fly based on audience interaction. Also, there is no chance to interact and connect with the audience if no one is hosting live.
Make it Irresistible
Take time and really think about not only your topic, but also the title and description of the webinar. After all, the first goal is to attract as many qualified leads as possible to watch it. The title needs to grab attention and the description should explain the amazing value viewers will receive.
Pick a Super Host
The webinar host should be a good speaker who is able to answer questions on the spot if the webinar is live. Typically the webinar host is someone who works for your software company, usually in the sales department.
Hire an Agency
Working with an agency can produce huge ROI. Because they have prior experience creating webinars, they can review your talking points, create your visuals with professionally designed slides, and promote and drive traffic to the webinar.
Always Follow Up
None of your efforts matter if you don’t follow up with audience members after a webinar. It’s best to contact attendees sooner than later while the information is still top of mind and tell them the next step to take. For example, offer a free demo or trial of the software.
Maybe you offer special pricing to webinar attendees or call them directly so they can ask questions.
When presenting information about your software, don’t be salesy or merely explain everything it does. A webinar is not meant to be a product tour or sales pitch.
Do This Instead
A webinar should create value and help solve the audience’s problems. For example, if you sell project management software, a 45 min webinar on the 10 Best Practices for Agencies to Use When Managing Projects (using your software of course) would be valuable to the audience. Here are 3 secrets to hosting a successful webinar from Forbes.com.
Kayli Kunkel, Digital Marketing Manager @ SparkReaction
“When you begin construction on your website redesign, start with content first. Consider the purchase path you want your audience to take. If your audience has evolved (which is likely!), consider evolving your messaging, too. This could require a complete overhaul of your navigation and site pages — and that's OK!”
People want expert advice. One of the benefits of downloads, like white papers or e-books, is prospects can read them at their leisure with no time constraints. We often call this a low commitment conversion because unlike a webinar or contact for, the prospect is in more control of their consumption and less committed.
In general, a white paper is an in-depth report that reveals problems and suggests solutions. White papers can educate, explain and promote your software to prospects in a non-salesy way. Shorter than an e-book, benefits of white papers include generating and nurturing leads.
Downloadable information should be valuable enough to encourage prospects to provide their contact information to access it. Consider your audience. What would they consider valuable or useful? What’s a common problem your target audience faces? Now, address this in a white paper.
An attention-grabbing title, tempting description, and powerful featured image can make a big impact on conversions. The goal is to get your leads over this first hurdle. Then, turn them into prospects and convert them into customers.
Don’t be Aggressive
Make sure prospects know they won’t be hunted, hassled, or harangued if they provide their contact information. Offer peace of mind by promising to only send one follow up email.
Tell prospects the next steps to take after reading the white paper by providing clear calls to action. Should they register for an upcoming webinar? Schedule a demo? Get a trial? You can also offer other resources for them to download next to keep them interested.
By making prospects provide contact information, like name and email, prior to making the download available, you can follow up with interested prospects and nurture the sale.
Note: Make sure it’s quick and easy for prospects to access your white paper. Don’t request too much information because long forms will only frustrate and annoy most people.
An e-book is typically longer than a white paper and provides more in-depth information. Since they are in electronic format they are fast and easy to download to a computer or mobile device, making them convenient to read at any time. E-books are portable, take up very little space and no trees are harmed when making them.
Usually an IT Manager, an influencer prefers a longer, more technical white paper that includes industry-related jargon. He or she is interested in the details and nuances of the software.
Maybe this is a VP in charge of the IT department. He or she isn’t the end user so minute details aren’t of any interest, but they still want general information about the software to make sure it’s a smart investment to make.
Typically an executive, like the CEO, who is not involved in the researching or vetting process. This person relies on the influencer and researcher to do the legwork and then present their recommendations for final approval.
Qualaroo, Beginners Guide To CRO
“First, you are most likely paying for traffic to your site in one way or another, and a high conversion rate means a better return on that investment (ROI). It’s also much more cost-effective to convert a higher percentage of the visitors you already have than to attract more visitors.”
SAAS Web Design + Development