6 Best SaaS Growth Strategies (and the Tactics to Make Them Happen) | Linkflow
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6 Best SaaS Growth Strategies (and the Tactics to Make Them Happen)

May 30, 2024

SaaS companies have to approach growth differently from most other types of businesses. And it’s all because of one thing: recurring revenue.

Since they rely on subscription-based models, the focus is not just on acquiring new customers, but also on retaining and upselling existing ones.

Effectively growing a SaaS company means developing strategies that not only attract new customers, but also increase retention, advocacy, and upselling rates.

What defines a SaaS growth strategy?

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A SaaS growth strategy is a plan of action that outlines how a company intends to grow its customer base, increase revenue, and achieve sustainable growth over time. It’s a roadmap for driving the company forward and achieving business objectives.

As a SaaS business, there are several components that make up your overall growth strategy:

  • Go-to-market
  • Customer acquisition
  • Retention and expansion
  • Monetization
  • Pricing model and structure
  • Product differentiation
  • Partnerships

Within your overarching strategy, there are tactics you’ll use to execute each of these elements. The difference between the two is that a strategy is the overall plan, while tactics are the specific actions taken to achieve that plan.

For example, tiered pricing is a pricing strategy you’d use to market different versions of your product to a wider customer base. You’ll use tactics like price anchoring (where a lower and higher price tier strategically guide most users to the middle tier, which is most profitable for the company and most useful to the average user) to execute this strategy. 

Why it’s is so important to have a set strategy

Companies that set strategies outlining their pathways to growth are 97% more likely to achieve profitable growth above their peers, according to McKinsey.

There are a few glaring reasons to develop (and stick to) your SaaS growth strategy:

  • It’s documented. Having a paper trail of what you did makes it easier to measure, benchmark against, and present to stakeholders.
  • It saves time and money. When you have a clear plan, you’re less likely to waste resources on tactics that don’t align with broader business goals.
  • It keeps the company focused. Strategies align otherwise-disparate departments (particularly sales and marketing teams) on growth goals and the initiatives that contribute to achieving them.
  • It supports scalability. A well-defined strategy outlines future growth opportunities, so you can plan your resources and investments accordingly.

Not to mention, most strategies for SaaS growth are already “proven” — that is, there are plenty of comparable organizations that have implemented them and documented their results. You can find case studies, benchmarks, and success stories all over the internet before applying those main ideas to your unique business.

6 strategies to accelerate SaaS growth

Widespread awareness

In the B2B SaaS industry, sales cycles are long. But they all start with awareness. The demand generation process, when done right, brings tons of new potential customers into the funnel and gets them interested in your product. You’ll nurture them through your other sales and marketing efforts and eventually get them to book a call.

Activities include:

  • Top-of-funnel content marketing
  • PPC advertising
  • Social media marketing
  • PR outreach
  • PR link building

The goal here isn’t to bring highly targeted leads in. The difference between lead generation and demand generation is the latter is meant to cast a wide net and gain a lot of attention quickly.

Though not everyone who sees your demand gen content will resonate with it, this is what you’ll use to get buyers over the initial “awareness” hurdle and into the funnel. So, it sets your SaaS business up to use other strategies (mentioned below) after it’s been successful.

Product-led growth

Product-led growth (PLG) is one of the most well-known SaaS growth strategies. With a PLG strategy, user acquisition, conversion, expansion, and retention are all product-driven.

To give you a rundown of how it works, let’s use Slack — one of PLG’s greatest case studies.

  1. Slack offered a freemium model, allowing users to sign up and start using the basic features for free.
  2. The company laser-focused on user experience and customer feedback, ensuring that it was intuitive, easy to use, and provided immediate value. Features like seamless integrations with other tools, searchable message history, and channels for organized communication enhanced user satisfaction.
  3. Slack’s collaborative design facilitated viral growth. As users invited colleagues to join their workspace, the product spread within organizations and to external partners. Each new user brought additional potential users, creating a viral loop.
  4. As they became increasingly reliant on your product for their daily work, users hit a point where the “free” version no longer packs enough value for them to continue using it as-is. That’s when they (and the rest of their company) convert into paying customers.

As a result, Slack’s user base grew rapidly. Within just two years of its launch, Slack reached over 1.1 million daily active users. By 2019, Slack reported over 10 million daily active users. Today, that figure is 35 million, across more than 1 million organizations.

PLG benefits SaaS companies in two main ways:

  • Customers are qualified. Because they’ve already used your product, they’re familiar with its advantages and limitations.
  • You’ll see more virality. Existing customers advocate will for your product and bring in new users.

It’s worth noting that successfully executing a PLG strategy takes time and resources. You’ll need to invest in building a free version of your product that offers enough value for users to want it, while ensuring that there are enough limitations to entice them to upgrade.

Customer-led growth 

Customer-led growth (CLG) is a strategy that’s similar to PLG but places the customer at the center instead of the product. With PLG, the customer experience is still a vital part of user acquisition. In CLG, it’s the foundation for all growth.

It involves:

  • Identifying who your best-fit customers are and what makes them tick
  • Mapping out the whole customer journey
  • Gathering insights through micro surveys and welcome flows
  • Closely monitoring feature engagement
  • Closing the feedback loop by addressing user issues
  • Leveraging the Voice of the Customer (VoC) in your sales and marketing

Over time, you customize your sales process, marketing collateral, user experience, and product offerings based on what you learn from your customers. This aligns well with the idea of customer success — when you prioritize customer needs and preferences, customer lifetime value increases and your customer acquisition cost and churn rate decrease.

Upselling & cross-selling

Your chances of selling additional products to an existing user are around 60% to 70%. That’s compared to just 5% to 20% for new prospects. That’s what makes upselling and cross-selling such powerful levers for SaaS growth.

  • Upselling is when you encourage users to spend more money (either at the time of initial purchase or in the future) for a higher-tier product.
  • Cross-selling is when you suggest users buy related products that complement their existing subscription.

There are a lot of different ways these two strategies can work:

  • Naturally (customers who stick with you as they grow their businesses will eventually need more features or services)
  • Through customer success initiatives like training, onboarding and customer support by educating them on the benefits of different plans
  • By offering add-ons and upgrades in your product interface
  • By developing new products and microservices that complement your existing ones (e.g., sales CRM + marketing automation)

For this to work, you need high customer satisfaction and established relationships with your customers. Focus on proving your value as early as possible, so they trust your next product will deliver (and improve their lives).

Bottom-of-funnel (BoFu) SEO

Bottom-of-funnel SEO is all about using SaaS SEO and content marketing to engage your almost-ready-to-buy customers and enable them to make a purchase decision. It’s what we primarily do for our SaaS clients to help them book more demos and close more deals.

A SaaS growth strategy focused on BoFu SEO requires you to:

  • Build authority in key topic clusters that specifically address your customers’ problems and pain points (e.g., “how to grow your small business with CRM”, “what to look for in a project management tool”)
  • Focus on bottom-of-funnel keywords like “best {competitor} alternatives” and “{your brand} vs. {competitor}”.
  • Create detailed product comparison content and case studies that demonstrate how your product solves the specific challenges your target audience faces.

When you’re ranking for BoFu keywords, you’re targeting users who are ready to convert — either because they’ve been through the customer journey and are now seeking a product to help them, or because they know what a product like yours can do.

This aligns perfectly with the inbound philosophy of creating content that solves problems and answers questions people ask.

Lifecycle marketing

Lifecycle marketing is a strategy that focuses on the entire customer journey, from their initial interaction with your brand to becoming a loyal advocate. It involves identifying different stages of the customer lifecycle and creating targeted marketing campaigns for each stage, with the goal of moving customers along to the next stage.

From a marketing standpoint, there are four stages:

  • Reach and engage — Help potential users first discover your brand and become aware of your product through your website, social media, PPC, and events.
  • Nurture and educate — Give leads considering your product more information to make a decision by hosting webinars, sending an email newsletter, publishing useful website content, and using retargeting ads.
  • Convert and close — Encourage leads to make a purchase by offering free trials, demos, pricing and comparison pages, gated content, and personalized offers.
  • Support and grow — Facilitate expansion revenue through customer retention, upselling, and ongoing engagement. Leverage existing customer relationships to attract new customers through advocacy, social proof, and user-generated content.

Lifecycle marketing enables you to continuously engage with your customers at every touchpoint throughout the journey. And each individual component strategically works together to move them closer to becoming a loyal advocate for your brand.

Elements of a successful SaaS growth strategy

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Realistically, SaaS businesses need to use a unique combination of everything mentioned above to achieve the business growth they’re looking for.

You need a combination of…

  • Widespread awareness tactics that present your product, name, and logo to the masses
  • PLG features that help new users familiarize themselves with your product and facilitate word-of-mouth growth
  • A CLG approach that enables you to improve your product and messaging
  • Upselling and cross-selling, because it’s 4-5x more profitable to keep a customer than acquire a new one
  • Bottom-of-funnel SEO tactics that build authority while helping users compare options and make educated purchase decisions
  • Lifecycle marketing that helps your business acquire, retain, and expand its subscriber base

This isn’t as complicated as it sounds. The key is to start with a solid foundation and build on it as you go.

Across your organization, this is what you need to have everything fall into place:

SMART goals

It sounds cliché, but your goals need to be Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Time-bound (SMART). To track and measure success, your sales and marketing activities should be tied to SaaS KPIs and specific objectives that ladder up to those targets.

Examples of SMART goals:

  • “Increase MRR by 20% in six months through a combination of PLG features, upselling, and bottom-of-funnel SEO tactics.”
  • “Generate 100 new demos next quarter through Google Ads PPC and BoFu SEO for comparison content.” 
  • “Reduce customer churn by 10% in the next three months through improved onboarding, product updates, and a full-lifecycle campaign prioritizing post-sale touchpoints.”

A benchmark or starting point

You might not know what’s “attainable” for certain KPIs without first looking at where you’re starting from.

  • What does your current marketing and sales strategy look like, and are they aligned?
  • What are your existing conversion rates, cost per acquisition (CPA), customer lifetime value (CLV), customer acquisition cost (CAC), and churn rate? 
  • What growth stage are you in?
  • What do those KPIs look like for competitors at a similar stage?
  • How much can you allocate to sales and marketing?

Take a look at where you are in relation to comparable companies at your current growth stage. From there, develop a realistic starting point and gauge what’s possible — for example, an early-stage startup can reasonably expect higher growth (percentage wise) and faster results than a mature company with multiple rounds of funding.

Buy-in across the whole company

A lack of company buy-in is one of the main reasons sales and marketing initiatives never see the light of day.

The person writing the check (i.e., the CEO, founder, or board) needs to be onboard with everything you’re planning on doing. And that means communicating potential ROI in an easy-to-understand way, and providing a simple way to track money in vs. money out.

Team leads and individual contributors also need to be comfortable with changes. Otherwise, they won’t implement new processes or messaging.

It helps to make your SaaS marketing plan a collaborative effort. The more people who are involved in the process, the easier it’ll be to get the final sign-off and actually execute.

Product-market fit

A good product will (partially) sell itself. But you can’t sell a bad or poorly-positioned product over the long term, no matter how hard you try.

Achieving product-market fit is a combination of (a) developing a product that reaches the right user’s needs and (b) effectively positioning your product with messaging that resonates.

In the early stages, you can’t do the latter without first doing the former. But as your company and product grow, you should continuously evaluate and adjust your product/positioning to ensure that it still works for your target customer segments.

Plans for using your data

Without an actionable way to use KPIs, they’re just numbers. You have to connect every indicator to specific activities if you want to make tangible improvements.

Let’s say you notice your churn rate starting to increase six months into your growth strategy execution. You should be asking yourself what’s causing it.

  • Is our lead gen content bringing in the right MQLs?
  • Are our bottom-of-funnel pages doing a good job at weeding out bad-fit customers?
  • Does our post-sale collateral help customers achieve full value from our product?

The point is, you should use those numbers as a starting point for digging into specific areas and planning out activities that can improve them.

Building your optimal growth plan

Building and optimizing your SaaS growth strategy is all about choosing the right inputs. While the broad strokes may look the same, how you execute will vary significantly from even your closest competitors.

Broadly speaking, you need the following:

  • An omnichannel strategy (SEO, PPC, social, email, partnerships, PR, evangelists)
  • Content marketing that generates, nurtures, and converts leads at multiple touchpoints, for different members of the buying group
  • A guided and personalized onboarding experience that facilitates product and feature adoption
  • Customer success initiatives that drive expansion and advocacy
  • Feedback loops that help you continuously improve your product and messaging
  • A scalable system for tracking, measuring, and optimizing sales and marketing activities

 

This is about where any sort of general agreement ends. How you execute and prioritize each element will depend entirely on your business model, target customer segments, product type, and brand positioning.

That’s why you hire help. Work with us to build authority, drive visibility, and create a predictable growth engine for your business through SEO and content marketing.

 

Brittney Fred, SEO Analyst
Brittney has been working in SEO and digital marketing for ten years and specializes in content strategy for the B2B SaaS industry. She is based in Denver, CO and absolutely fits the Denverite stereotype. You’re just as likely to find her hiking, snowboarding, or doing yoga as reading sci-fi or playing video games.