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Marketing a SaaS Company

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by: Will Schnabel (@wschnabel)
13 February 2008

Marketing is definitely not what is used to be. The days of spending months planning, designing, executing and monitoring over-analyzed campaigns are gone. They are quickly being replaced with demand-generation processes that allow for repeatability, measurability and rapid time-to-value. For those of us lucky enough to have the chance to run a SaaS-based business, we understand the need for sales and marketing to work in lock-step, driving down our costs of customer acquisition, and getting the highest possible return on our marketing spend. 

In his Jan. 28 opinion piece for, "Re-learning Marketing for the SaaS Model," Steve Adams does a marvelous job of highlighting how the SaaS model is much more than a change to software delivery--it is a major shift in how we all think about our sales and marketing approach. The Sabrix, Inc. CEO writes, "The SaaS or on-demand model demands even greater attention to process, operational skills, metrics, training, as well as the ability to succeed or fail quickly and adjust accordingly." Succeed or fail quickly and adjust? That goes against our grain as marketers; but, it's becoming the new mantra for marketing a SaaS business.

Reading Adams' article reminded me of a situation in the early days of Vtrenz in 2002, when we were, of course, "eating our own dog food" by using our platform to launch a lead generation campaign. Money was tight and marketing, as usual, was trying to do more with less. As soon as our marketing team hit the Go button for the campaign, and results started to come in, we quickly realized the promotional offer was incorrect. Our first reaction was to quickly stop the campaign, fix the offer in all the electronic elements of the campaign (an added bonus in an on-demand marketing platform), and re-start the campaign. However, as we monitored the real-time results, we noticed that we were getting better-than-planned responses to the campaign. After a quick conversation with the head of sales, we determined that we could easily support this offer and therefore decided to let it ride with minor modifications. And the point of the story? The entire process of plan, do, check (re-assess) and act happened over a 24-hour period. How's that for responsiveness and aligning sales and marketing?

Another key point highlighted in Adams' article is the change in customer drivers for considering a software purchase. Long gone are the big-ticket installs, with the standard 1.5x cost of implementation on-top of the software. Customers measure time-to-value in terms of weeks rather than years, and this drives the need for an extremely high level of service orientation, both before the sale, during the on-boarding process, and in the ongoing support and training of current and future users. We build trust and win new clients by means of our sales and marketing process, but we build advocates through the delivery of our services.

So as you look at your own marketing strategies, especially if you are a SaaS business, remember that learning and adapting to this new model is imperative if you are to succeed.

To learn more about marketing strategies for SaaS-based businesses, I encourage you to attend the upcoming OpSource SaaS Summit Feb. 27 – 29 and hear industry veteran and Silverpop Vice President of Industry Relations Loren McDonald speak on how to market your SaaS business like a Web company. You can also read more of Loren's thoughts by clicking his name on the MediaPost blog found here.




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