20 Jul 2016

The Best Paid Acquisition Channels For B2B SaaS

The Best Paid Acquisition Channels For B2B SaaS

Traffic sources and acquisition channels are one of a marketer’s best kept secrets.

There are many tools out there to uncover your competitor’s PPC channels and advertisements, but they are not 100% accurate and they don’t tell you which ad was a success and which wasn’t.

Of course for every industry the exact advertising mediums might vary, but below I will list some channels that usually work for B2B SaaS.

In the last section, I will also share some best practices that distinguish experienced performance marketers from their less experienced counterparts.

Let’s start!

SaaS Directories

SaaS directories are some of the best paid acquisition channels that every SaaS should utilize.

Each directory is different, each one has more focus on specific software categories (i.e. Inventory Management, LMS, CRM etc) and they have different advertising plans and traffic quality.

Some of them are selling leads, so they are good for lead generation, others drive high quality traffic to your site and some of them act as the Yelp of SaaS businesses.

That is, when people search for reviews of your company, they are very close to the buying decision and they land on some of these directories to read reviews about your software.

So, it’s imperative to first get 5 or more high quality reviews and then engage in a directory’s advertising plan.

As you can see in my header, I am giving out a doc with more than 20 SaaS directories that I currently use, have used or explored in the past. This is a good place to start, but not all of them have good advertising plans.

With the recent acquisition of GetApp, Capterra and Software Advice by Gartner, things are bound to change in the future for better or worse.

Insider’s Knowledge: It’s important to build a relationship with your account manager in those directories.

Do not take everything at face value; negotiations play a role.

It’s important to understand which directories bring new business and which ones act as the last point of touch before a sale/signup is made and act/bid accordingly.

Your marketing attribution model matters a lot in B2B. This awesome article by Avinash will get you up to speed. My favorites are Time Decay and Position Based.

If the directories talk about you in their blog, reviews or wherever, it’s very important how they frame you. More on that in the “Best Practices” near the end of the article.

Email Sponsorships

Email sponsorships are mainly used for demand generation and they tend to be an expensive sport.

These work by usually either buying a placement in a site’s weekly newsletter or taking over the whole newsletter and talking about a lead magnet or your product.

Depending on the size of the list, accuracy, reputation of the site and other factors the price can vary, but it’s usually $1K+ for a single email sponsorship.

In 99% of the cases the sponsorship promotes a lead form to download a whitepaper or a blog post in the form of a native ad (meaning it subtly promotes the advertiser’s software).

However, I have also seen success with directly advertising your software and asking them to sign up.

It’s important to have compelling copy and good positioning, but it can work.

Of course for enterprise software you are better off promoting a lead magnet and then have marketing automation do all the heavy lifting.

Generally speaking, this channel can work when you have everything optimized and/or your software is mid to high end in terms of cost.

Insider’s Knowledge: Most sophisticated media sites have segmented their subscribers. Ask if you can target a specific segment for better results and lower cost.

Every site will share with you their average CTR, open rates and number of subscribers. Use those and assign a % conversion rate on your site to calculate in advance the cost per lead and if there is a chance of success.

Use this spreadsheet for your calculations.

Ask if they give any discounts and under which terms. Usually if you prepay a few insertions you can get a discount or some banner ads as a gift. Gifts are always welcome, but sometimes they must be requested 🙂

Avoid bad timing (summer vacation period, Christmas, etc).

Sponsored Content

Sponsored content is simply paying a media site to feature your article by following a minimal editorial process.

This means that you bypass the normal selection process and the article might be about a topic and casually mention your company or about solely your company.

Usually it has a slightly more promotional tone than the normal articles of the site. It can also be used to get a strategic link for SEO purposes.

Now, most people say that making it all about your company won’t work. This is not always true.

It really depends on the level of marketing the industry has received and the marketing sophistication of the market…

If you write a heavily promotional post targeted to marketers we will tune it out and it probably won’t work very well.

If you write a similar piece for an audience that is not in marketing, doesn’t know what sponsored posts are and/or is not used to this kind of advertisement it might work pretty well!

Don’t limit yourself, go against the norm and try things that make sense.

Insider’s knowledge: One very potent use of this method is finding articles that already rank for keywords you want to target and offering them $$ in exchange for a short promotional mention of your company in their article.

This can work wonders if done right.

Be careful of the quality of your sponsored posts. Bypassing the normal editorial process also means that the quality can be lower. Pay extra attention.

Adwords and Bing (SEM)

Adwords and Bing are 2 PPC channels that are very important to most established SaaS companies.

Whether people are actively searching for a software like yours (i.e. NPS software) or you need to target long tail keywords and educate them will play a major role in your potential success (or lack of it).

If they are actively searching for a CRM they are considering solutions and they are prone to demos and closer to the buying stage.

If they are searching for longtail keywords, they are not necessarily looking for a solution like yours and the search volume might be limited…

Lastly, in some industries the CPC can be insanely high, so it might make sense to tackle it at a later stage or not at all.

Insider’s knowledge: If you have enough volume and competition, use single keyword ad groups.

Test between sending your traffic to your homepage and specific landing pages.

Google and Bing except from the difference in volume, they also have different searchers. They are simply not the same people and you won’t see the same conversions between them.

In most cases it’s better to have a reputable freelancer or agency managing your Adwords/Bing campaigns.

Best Practices

In this section I want to talk a little bit about some key philosophies and practices that I learned with time and I believe distinguish a junior paid acquisition marketer from a more senior.

First of all, we need to understand that these are not clicks and number