Is your SaaS ready to invest in marketing automation?

A complete guide to help you understand if your SaaS is ready for the next step

    On this blog post, you'll learn:
  • The main benefits of marketing automation for SaaS companies;
  • Signs that your company needs a marketing automation tool;
  • How to prepare your company for process automation.

Marketing automation. If you aren't using it yet, I'm pretty sure that you're considering to invest in a platform to automate your most important marketing tasks. How do I know that? Well, more than 55% of B2B companies already adopted the technology, so if you follow the crowd (and we usually do), you might be at least flirting with the idea.

Not to mention that you're reading this blog post. So yeah, you're willing to invest in a marketing automation software, isn't it?

The thing is: investing in something new is never an easy choice. It's like buying your own place to live on your own. It's a pretty big decision. Why should you change things? I mean, you are used to how things work, everything is in the right place. Why move things around now? You would have to adapt to a new home, maybe with new furniture, and then you would have to learn new things, maybe cook, or do the laundry. Is it worth it the effort?

Well, maybe it's time for a change. Occasionally, everyone reaches this same stage somewhere in their lives. How do you know for sure that it's time? Don't worry, I'll give you some tips.

Signs that your company needs a marketing automation tool

Just like there are some signs that it might be time to leave your parents house (e.g. parents controlling your schedule, or giving you a hard time every time you sleep out), there are some signs that indicate that your SaaS might need to take the next step. It's time to scale up with marketing automation.

The main difference is that most of the times, daily processes are forcing you to change your schedule, or making you stay awake all night long. And it doesn't even need to be something negative - for instance, a high volume of customers can cause that in SaaS companies and startup.

Take a look at these situations, and be honest: have you experienced one of these signs recently?

Your conversions are decreasing or are stable

Stability is not always a good thing. In marketing, results and numbers should always be raising up, even if it's just a little bit. The same goes for the sales and customer success results. Subscriptions, signups, customers, revenue - all of them must be pointing up.

So if your marketing efforts are not giving as many results as before, or have just gotten steady without visible changes, this might be the first sign that something isn't quite right.

You feel the need to properly qualify leads

When is a lead ready for the sales team? Is it too soon for a sales pitch? Should they be nurtured a little more? Without a lead scoring system, it's very difficult to find the right answers for these questions.

If you're feeling that your SaaS is having problems on identifying which stage leads are currently on, you should be alert. The main issue here is that your company may be approaching leads too soon, or too late. In both cases, your chance of converting leads drastically decreases.

Difficulty to scale

First of all, your company needs to know if it's the right time to scale up. If we take into account that according to the Startup Genom's survey 74% of startups failures can be explained by premature growth, this explains why companies shouldn't rush to scale. Or in our case, "leave their parent's house".

But if you've been in the market for a while - and have done your homework - you've probably reached the point that you see the need of automating your marketing, automate different tasks and streamline workflows. And it makes it easier to scale up marketing efforts.

Your competitors are giving a hard time

If you don't know what your competition is up to, you should start analyzing your neighborhood right now. Even more, if they're improving their marketing with an automation tool, because that gives them two or three steps ahead of you.

But that's not too hard to keep up if you start right now. And if you know you're losing customers to the competition, this is a pretty huge sign that things need to change - as soon as possible.

Low credibility and/or engagement in the market

Let's make the math: if your conversion rate is falling and your potential customers are going to the competition, it's very likely that your company's credibility in the market is low. A low credibility is bad for new opportunities and even for your already existing customers.

There a few indications for that: how's your social engagement? Leads and opportunities are really engaging with your company? Your NPS surveys are turning from green to red? If the numbers are decreasing, I suggest you turn the red light and get ready for automation.

Marketing before automation

The main benefits of marketing automation for SaaS

Just like living on your own, before you jump into marketing automation you may want to know all its benefits. And believe me, it's a long list. And after you do, it'll make you think: "Why didn't I do it sooner?". We've listed some of the benefits that you get when you proper use a marketing automation tool:

Highly qualified leads:

I am sure that your SaaS company is acquiring and converting leads (maybe not as much as you wish), but the follow-up process can be extremely optimized with automation. This means that your chances of getting new customers increase exponentially.

Automated lead scoring is one of the few capabilities of a marketing automation platform, and can be easily set up to score them according to their behavior towards your website, landing pages, or blog.

Thanks to event tracking and real-time analytics, this process can be entirely personalized and lead-oriented. At the end of the day, this means leads that can be properly categorized and approached according to their stage in the funnel.

And we are not the only ones saying that. According to a research from Pepper Global,for B2B marketers the primary benefit of marketing automation is the ability to generate more and better quality leads.

Shorten sales cycle:

Once your leads start receiving personalized, educational content through automated nurturing, they're progressively pushed through the funnel towards the "sales-ready stage", and it means that they're really ready to purchase your product.

The capability of shortening the sales cycle can be achieved with by automating marketing processes such as implementing a lead nurturing and a lead scoring system. By qualifying leads and approaching them at the right moment, your sales cycle gets way shorter.

Integration between sales and marketing teams:

As we mentioned above, your sales and marketing teams are able to work together, following leads along the sales funnel and defining metrics that should be monitored by both teams. This allows better communication between them, avoid problems such as communication noise, that might result in revenue loss.

Organizations with tightly aligned sales and marketing had 36% higher customer retention rates and achieved 38% higher sales win rates.

To improve the teamwork, the best marketing automation tools can integrate apps such as CRMs, push notification and communication channels to notify marketing and sales teams about new leads, opportunities and successful conversions.

Better lead nurturing:

Lead nurturing is the key to conversion and successful retention. And there's no doubt that marketing automation improves the efficiency of this process. How? First of all, it streamlines the process, so it becomes much simpler and faster.

Second, with the possibility to personalize the content of emails and in-app messages (yes, they can also be used for lead nurturing) your strategy has more chances to impact the leads. Simply because targeted content is way more noticeable than random bulk emails and in-app notifications.

Companies that excel in lead nurturing generate 50% more sales-ready leads at 33% lower cost per lead.

Setting up email automation flows allows you to determine the most comfortable interval between emails, the specific triggers that'll start or stop the automation, and what happens with leads in case they don't respond as expected, such as ignoring a message or flagging it as spam.

Better customer engagement, thus retention:

As you can see, one benefit leads to another. Once contacts are well nurtured, they may become customers, and tend to engage more with your company. This means using your product regularly, reading emails and in-app notifications, answering surveys and feedback requests, and more.

Customers who constantly "talk" to you and keep using your product have much higher chances to stay longer with your company, and even come back for more - a higher plan or a different product.

According to Appboy 90% of the people who engage with an app weekly for the first month after download are retained.

To help you out with the whole engagement thing, there are tools that let you measure how engaged your users are. And I'm not talking about Daily Active Users (DAU) or Monthly Active Users (MAU), but actual engagement data, such as what have your users done in your app for the past months, and for how long. Even better, you can rate their activities by score and create your own "Customer Engagement Index".

Churn analysis:

If it's possible to quantify what users are doing in the app and for how long, it's safe to say that marketing automation allows churn analysis, so you can analyze which users are more likely to leave you in the next months.

With business intelligence, it's easy to understand the customer's behavior and patterns. Data in hands means you can plan and set up strategies to prevent churn. For instance, you can create alerts for the sales teams or send re-engagement emails when a customer has a low engagement index.

These are just a few good reasons that you need to consider before investing in marketing automation, and also there are much more that come with time and maturity. Just like living on your own, isn't it? At first, you might miss these or that habit you were used to, but then you feel how rewarding it is to feel free, have an extra time only for you and establish your own rules.

How to prepare your company for marketing automation

So, you've seen how good it can be to live alone, you've acknowledged that you need to move out from your parent's house, but you still need to find the best place for you, know the neighborhood, buy your own furniture, and so on.

The same goes for marketing automation. There a few things that you need to do before actually "achieving your freedom". Most of them requires you to "prepare the terrain" for the change:

1. Know your personas:

Marketing automation is all about segmenting the right messages to the right customers. This means that you need to know your persona(s) before you start to automate your marketing tasks.

Discover more about the profile of your main buyer, what issues they're facing, what they're looking for to solve it, what they expect from a product like yours, and where they would search for it. All of this - and much more - can be used to determine your persona(s).

2. Know your industry benchmarks:

Who are your neighbors? What are they up to? Why do other neighbors are visiting their houses more often than yours? You have to know your competitors, their strategies and even their clients, including how customers perceive their product.

Benchmark them. This way you put your own performance metrics into context, and prevent focusing on metrics that may not influence the bottom line.

3. Have enough valuable content:

Content matters, a lot! Most of your nurturing are based on relevant content so you need to have not only enough content but also valuable content. This includes ebooks, webinars, Q&As, live demos and whitepapers.

Remember that when you use automation, marketing and content altogether, personalization is a priority, so take your time to produce content that fits your persona(s).

4. Plan your acquisition strategy:

What will be your acquisition strategy? Content? Landing pages? Social media? All of them? Determine how much energy you will put in each one of them. Once you know that, is much easier to look for a tool that fulfills your needs. And more than that, how you'll connect and manage everything with automation.

Your customer acquisition plan will probably evolve as you grow. In fact, it MUST. What works initially might not work later on, and what doesn’t work now might be worth revisiting in the future.

5. Define your sales funnel:

Even before you map your customer journey, you need to have in mind what steps your customers will go through before actually purchasing your product. Of course a marketing automation platform can help you discover each one of your customer's steps before the purchase, but surveys are a great way to acquire this kind of information without having to prematurely invest on it.

The best thing to do is align your ideas with the sales team and define the metrics your company will pursue. And then, develop your strategies and reports based on these metrics, so everything important can be properly measured.

If you follow these simples rules, the next step in your journey is to choose the platform that most fit your SaaS company. Sure it might be scary at first, and you will pass through the adaptation stage, but changes are always for the best and you will find out that betting in marketing automation is just like finding your own place: once you feel comfortable with it, there's no better feeling in the world.

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