Paid search (PPC) is an effective and valuable marketing tool in today’s online marketplace. With some well-written ads, you can show up above the organic listings and get in front of your potential customers. Grab their attention with a catchy headline and then make the close with a well-built landing page. Congratulations! You just made a new sale.

For SaaS companies, however, you have to think differently about the way paid search works. While the key components are the same (write ad and convert customer) the targeting and strategy need to be more advanced. With SaaS, you aren’t selling dog bowls or sweater vests. Because of the nature of SaaS companies, a greater commitment is required from the customer. Remember, they are signing up for a subscription service that can include a lengthy contract with big implications for their business. There can be set up costs, termination fees, poor customer service and support, difficulty in using the software, and a variety of other items to consider when purchasing a subscription software from the standpoint of the client. For these reasons, the buying cycle usually takes quite a while.

It’s also important to remember that many consumers may need to be a right fit for your company. These days, it can take 6 to 8 touchpoints to generate a viable lead. That’s because there is some qualification that needs to take place on your side as well. Not everyone with an internet connection is a good fit for your SaaS product. So you need to find better ways to spend less money on leads that go nowhere.


What Are You Selling, Really?

Before you get started, take some time to consider your company. What is it that makes your company unique? Why should people use your software? What problem does your software solve? Who is your ideal customer? What goals do you need to reach to be successful?

Considering these items can help shape your marketing strategy. It’s very important to know your “unique selling proposition,” or USP. This is the key component that makes your software better than any competitor. You’ll want to highlight your unique selling proposition in the ad and the landing page. This will make for a complete experience for the customer as well as giving you the best shot to convert that customer.


Peer into the Mind of Your Ideal Customer

Once you have an idea of what it is you’re selling, you’ll want to find out who you are selling to. Just like knowing your unique selling proposition, understanding your ideal customer can go a long way in determining the outcome of your paid search marketing strategy. When you know who your ideal customer is and what they are looking for, your ads can be custom tailored to those needs.


Choose the Most Relevant Metrics

You’ll also want to be aware of what metrics are important to you. One great thing about a SaaS business model is the recurring revenue. If you can secure a customer, that revenue isn’t just a one-time thing. Therefore it is incredibly helpful to know what the Lifetime Value of a customer is when planning a paid search campaign.

Paid search is very quantifiable. We can easily see how many clicks we are getting and how much each click costs. If you know that each lead will on average turn into $100 MRR (monthly recurring revenue), then it’s easy to calculate how much to spend to acquire a new lead and be profitable.

Another metric to consider besides lifetime value and monthly recurring revenue is churn rate. On average, how many clients do you lose per month? Knowing this helps you to plan out budgets and lead goals since you’ll want to make up for any lost customers on a monthly basis.


Plan Your PPC Strategy

Once you have a good understanding of your own company, your ideal customer, and your goals, you can begin the process of planning out your paid search strategy. First ask yourself a few questions. What platforms do you want to show ads (Google search, Google partners, Bing, etc.)? Is your company well known? Is the software market well established? For example, “project management software” is pretty well established for B2B companies:

Plan Your PPC Strategy

With a well-established market like this that averages around 22K monthly searches, Google is a great platform. People are actively searching for your software, which is great! Unfortunately, this isn’t always the case. With less search volume, your paid search strategy may be more of raising awareness of your brand, your software, and the solutions it provides.

Google and Bing are great for intent-based searches, which come from people who know what they are looking for. They type in their search and are rewarded with ads that help answer their questions. Platforms like display can play a more important role as well as social advertising through LinkedIn or Facebook when that intent may not be present. With social media advertising, you no longer target intent based search at all. Instead, you can target audiences that you think will get a benefit from your software. Social media can be great for raising awareness with your highly targeted audience. However, don’t expect to see similar numbers with social media ads as with intent-based marketing (which will have a much higher conversion rate). The purpose is to raise brand and product awareness. It may take some time to see a positive ROI.


Do Some Keyword Research

With SaaS companies, keyword research can be a little more challenging. Sometimes, there may not be an established market or keywords for the problems your software helps to solve. Other times it can be incredibly competitive and expensive. Conducting the research to find those niche terms that can be real winners for you is crucial.

It’s important to think like your customer. What are the keywords they would search for when looking for your software? Sometimes there can be differences between what you think your company does and what your customers think your company does. It’s important to make that distinction.


Optimize Your Ad Copy and Landing Pages

The next step is creating ads and landing pages. This should be easier now that you have an understanding of your unique selling proposition as well as your ideal customer. Make sure to highlight those items in the ads and landing pages. You want a cohesive experience for your customers as they go through their buying journey, so the ads and landing pages should have the same elements. Not only is this better for the customer, but Google and Bing will reward you with higher quality scores, which can positively affect your ad placements.

If it all possible, try and offer a free trial of your software. This goes a long way in getting a customer to go from a lead to a closed sale. If they can get hands-on with the software and see how it benefits them, then you’ll get more sales and those sales will have a higher lifetime value. One other alternative is to offer a free version of your software with upsell opportunities for power users. If your software is effective, profitability shouldn’t be a problem.

With a proper structure in place and cohesive ads and landing pages across the multiple platforms, you’re ready to launch paid search for your SaaS product. There will be continual work with ad testing and optimizations going forward, but this is the foundation on which you’ll build your successful campaign.

Eric Serdar
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