So you’ve built an awesome SaaS product that’s now ready to go to market. Assuming you already have product/market fit, your biggest challenge now is getting your product in front of prospective customers.
Here are eight growth techniques we’ve used with success at Mhelpdesk, a field service software startup, to help us get free trial signups that later convert into paid accounts.
Businesses use forums to communicate to other businesses and customers in their respective industries. This is a great source for startup exposure. It doesn’t come easy, though, and is a long-term strategy that must be properly executed. It’s all about gaining trust and becoming a respected community member rather than a door-to-door salesman.
Become a forum sponsor and start building a solid rapport with the site owner. These are often well-connected, influential individuals. Sponsoring a forum drives revenues to the site moderator and keeps you top of mind when posts related to your line of work get published.
We also found it to be beneficial to give the site owner a free account. He or she uses the product and in turn recommends it to the community. If done properly, this is an incredibly effective way to get in front of lots of potential customers who typically take recommendations from trusted friends in their industry. We currently get about 150 new signups per month that come from forums where we are present.
2. Marketplace listings
It can be tough to get top-tier exposure on these sites, but there are many online marketplaces that allow companies to list their app — some of which have audiences in the tens of millions. A couple I’d recommend are Salesforce, Intuit, Wix, Constant Contact, Google Apps Marketplace and Chrome Web Store. Each of these can deliver hundreds of installs and signups per month.
3. Buy Prequalified Leads
While buying leads can be a low-volume, expensive proposition, it’s still a great way to identify highly qualified potential buyers. We’ve also found that they rank highly in search results. I’d recommend Capterra, Software Advice and Get App. They all deliver phone verified leads based on your criteria. These leads tend to have a greater number of logins that result in a higher monthly revenue of $225 per customer.
Alternatively, each organic search lead averages three logins with a monthly revenue around $90 — definitely worth the acquisition cost.
4. Organic search
Improving your organic search ranking is an obvious choice with huge payoffs — we currently get an average of 500 new signups per month with an 8 percent conversion rate. One strategy we’ve found useful is to to create clean, well-structured landing pages for keywords you’re targeting (e.g. “computer software repair,” “repair tracking software,” etc.). And earning some quality mentions on high-ranking sites in your space is always a plus.
One of the most successful partnerships you can establish is with phone carriers such as Verizon or AT&T. They all have partner programs through which software companies can become verified vendors. The carrier’s outside sales force (consisting of thousands of reps) can then push your product to their end users.
It’s a win for the carriers too — they now have a reason to sell 10 iPads with 10 data plans to equip their staff and use your software. Carriers may also bill on your behalf. If they do, the fee for your software often becomes secondary to their product.
Partner with companies that already have your intended audience’s attention. Online directories and Internet yellow pages (IYPs) are a good place to start. Both have many small businesses that either advertise on their website or have claimed their online listing. Also, suggest a cross-email marketing campaign. This will feed the top of your sales funnel, but you’ll have to work a little harder at converting these leads.
Google Adwords is a beast of its own. The trick here is to determine the true cost to acquire a new customer. As long as the customer acquisition cost is less than the lifetime value, keep that campaign active and throw as much money on it as possible. When we first started our Adwords campaign, it cost about $90 to generate a free trial signup.
About 8 percent of our free trials were converting to paid accounts. This made the cost of a new paying customer around $1,125. Since the lifetime value of a paying customer was $2,500, we put as much money as we could into these campaigns.
8. Retargeting Ads
We use Adroll for our retargeting ads. It’s been effective for converting those who have already visited our site. A retargeting ad will drop a cookie on a website visitor’s computer and then follow them around with banner ads on externals sites for a set period of time. Of course, the volume of conversions will vary depending on your site’s current traffic.
* * *
Go ahead — test these strategies out and find what works for you. Just keep in mind that it’s important to think long term, establish trusting relationships, and set up channels that will generate leads on a consistent, ongoing basis.
Ryan Shank is the COO of Mhelpdesk, a field service software company that helps small businesses manage their jobs, scheduling and invoices.
The Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) is an invite-only organization comprised of the world’s most promising young entrepreneurs. In partnership with Citi, the YEC recently launched #StartupLab, a free virtual mentorship program that helps millions of entrepreneurs start and grow businesses via live video chats, an expert content library and email lessons.
Image credit: Thinkstock