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B2B SaaS GTM strategy

How to Create a Winning SaaS Go-To-Market Strategy

Feb 7, 2023

You’ve done the foundational work of finding a problem that exists in the world, validating that it is a problem to more than just you, and have identified your potential customer—what’s next? It’s that ever-elusive question for founders who have all the information at their fingertips but don’t know how to focus on what’s most important. I’ve been there–in fact, working at Harmony Venture Labs, I work with a team who helps founders bring B2B SaaS products to market. Through trial and error, we’ve learned a lot along our journey thus far. And in this blog, I’m going to share the top five things you should know to create a winning SaaS go-to-market (GTM) strategy—and get your first customer.

First things first

The importance of having a strong product and customer validation foundation cannot be understated. In fact, it is critical to your success in gaining your first customer. The beauty is, AppThink is the perfect tool to guide you through the minimum viable product (MVP) process so that you can move forward with launching your MVP into the world.

If you haven’t gone through AppThink, make sure you’ve clearly identified the below information before you start thinking about GTM:

  • The problem you’re solving
  • Your market
  • Your niche
  • Your Mission, Vision,  and Values statements
  • Your ICP/target audience
  • Your competitors
  • Your differentiators
  • Your ICP’s pain and objections to your product
  • Your pricing model
  • Your use cases
  • Your messaging and positioning

Whew–are you tired yet? The good news is–once you’ve defined the above, you can take the next step in thinking about how you want to enter the market. And how do we do that? Let’s dive into the five steps that will help you create a winning SaaS go-to-market strategy.

Step 1: Minimum Viable Content

Once your product foundation has been established, the next step is building minimum viable content. What exactly is that? In the zero-to-one startup world, we define minimum viable content as the very first public messages your potential customer will view on your website, blog, and social channels.  You’ll want to showcase the messaging and positioning you crafted earlier in a thoughtful way, with the goal of speaking to your potential customer’s pain points and the value of your product. If you do this effectively, you’ll begin to generate trials or signups for your product. MVP content is broken down into two parts:

Website content

How do you start creating website content? There are a lot of opinions out there, but I find Emily Kramer’s simple infographic for homepage content to be a great guide.

Site map by Emily Kramer.

After creating the framework of your homepage, you’ll want to build out landing pages that align with the navigation categories at the top of your website. Your messaging should be compelling and consistent, which will reinforce the value of your offer and reduce your bounce rate. 

Blog content

When creating organic blog content, the best use of your time is to focus on these four pillar blog posts first, then build out content clusters that align with your pillar posts from there. The goal is to answer potential customer questions right off the bat–leaving them without any doubt that your product is for them.

  • Brand manifesto/mission-oriented blog post
    • Having a clear and concise manifesto that outlines what your company stands for, what it believes in, and what it wants to achieve can greatly impact the growth of a brand. In the words of Anja Schlein, Chief Marketing Officer of SAP, “A brand that is built on principles and values is not only more resilient but is also more relevant to customers’ lives—and easier for employees to live out.” You can use your mission, vision, and values statements in this blog post as a starting place.
  • Key features/benefits
    • This post not only shows customers what features and benefits your product offers but most importantly, how it can solve their problems. With this kind of content, you can give potential customers a better understanding of what your offering is capable of and why they should care.
  • Target audience pain points
    • When you understand and empathize with your customer pain points, you’ll be able to develop your product (and messaging) in a way that creates an extraordinary user experience and speaks directly to your ICP.
  • Competitor comparisons
    • Comparison blogs are an effective way to present a straightforward and thorough look at your product and others in the same market. As far as SaaS businesses go, competitor blogs are an essential piece of bottom-of-the-funnel content that can benefit your SEO and PPC strategies and can position you favorably against your competitors.

Tip: Speaking of SEO,  be sure to incorporate high volume, low difficulty keywords, as well as strong internal and external links in your blog content. SEM Rush offers a great resource covering SEO best practices, including how many links they recommend. 

Step 2: Email and Product Onboarding

Your product onboarding email campaign is typically the first touchpoint for customers–so it’s important to have your goals in mind. The main objective of this communication is to have a clear and simple message that is focused on getting your customer to their “a-ha” moment. Getting customers to that point quickly makes your product more “sticky” and reinforces the value they have received by signing up. A few other things to keep in mind:

  1. Reinforce goals and outcomes for the customer.
  2. Focus on being a solution to their problem and they’ll be motivated to learn from your product.
  3. Reinforce the high likelihood of achieving the outcome.
  4. Reinforce ease and low risk.
  5. Reinforce low effort and sacrifice.
  6. Make a compelling offer (repeat goal, give differentiation, give price, give a guarantee and a reason to buy).

Step 3: Lead Magnets

A lead magnet is a free offer you give away in exchange for someone’s contact information. Lead magnets should be simple to create and easy to use. The closer they align with the product’s value proposition, the better. Lead magnets are a great way to get potential customers interested in your product.

A great example of a B2B SaaS company using lead magnets well is HubSpot. They offer a plethora of free checklists, templates, whitepapers, and PDFs containing information that their prospects are searching for. By offering so much free content, they build trust and thought leadership with potential customers and in turn, get access to invaluable contact information to utilize in their marketing efforts. 

Step 4: Customer Interviews and Cold Networking to Refine Messaging

Customer interviews and cold networking can feel like daunting tasks, but they are essential to nailing your messaging and growing your business as an early-stage founder. Here are a few tips to make the process easier:

Customer Interviews

  • One way to get early feedback on your messaging and positioning is to recruit “beta” testers of your offer. Before you begin scaling your outbound marketing efforts, you can test how you’ve packaged your offer and identify any issues that need to be addressed before it is officially launched.

When it comes to refining messaging, beta testing with a small cohort of people can be a valuable tool in a few ways:

1. Understanding customer needs and preferences

  • By observing how potential customers or clients interact with your product or service, you can gather insights into their needs and preferences. This can help you refine your messaging to better align with the wants and needs of your target audience.

2. Identifying pain points

  • During this period, your testing group may provide feedback about specific challenges or problems that they encountered while using your product or service. This feedback can help you identify pain points in your messaging and refine it to better address those issues.

3. Language and tone

  • Testing your offer 1:1 with a small group of people can also help you to understand how people perceive the language and tone of your messaging. You can adjust the language and tone based on the feedback to make it more relatable and effective.

Cold Networking 

Cold networking can be accomplished in various ways such as in person, over the phone, via email, social media direct messages, and more. Depending on your business, market, pricing, and other factors, you’ll want to leverage certain channels for the most impact. Below are descriptions of each:

Cold calling

  • When you cold call potential customers directly, you can gain valuable insight into what your product messaging means to them (if anything). This knowledge is powerful and can be used to refine your product messaging so it resonates better and communicates the value of your product more effectively. 
  • For effective engagement via this interruptive channel, be sure you have a concise script with a CTA ready to deliver during your call. Additionally, here are some other helpful tips:
    • Know who you are calling and address them directly in the first few seconds.
    • Include some kind of personalization, such as a social media post you saw or something about the company they work for.
    • Stay away from negative comparisons to your competitors and instead focus on the pain they might be feeling. Don’t address your solution right out of the gate.
    • Be sure to capture their feedback (both negative and positive) as you will gain learnings from both. 

Cold email outreach

Cold email outreach best practices are very similar to those for cold calling. Personalization is KEY. How can you win using this tactic?

  • Do not do cold emails without personalization per email
  • Use cold email strategies when the value of each deal is in the hundreds and thousands of dollars. The annual value of deals ideally should be greater than $5000. 
  • Don’t connect with multiple people within the same company or team at the same time. This diminishes your personalization and will more than likely ruin your efforts. 

Social Outreach

Fostering relationships –and getting customer insight–via Direct Message (DM) is an art form, one that requires more finesse than simply sending a product link and hoping for the best. It pays to be strategic with DM tactics. Rather than going in cold, start by posing thought-provoking questions within stories, your feed, and community groups. By doing so, you will create an avenue for your potential customers to self-qualify. Dig deep into their pain points and the results they seek in order to maximize effectiveness. From there, you can gain insight and craft your message to directly address their needs.

Step 5: Customer acquisition planning

There is a multitude of channels you can acquire customers from, but only four of them are truly scalable. Before investing a large amount of time and resources into acquisition, consult the Acquisition Decision Tree and Acquisition Quadrant infographics below. 

Acquisition Decision Tree

The channels in green are our go-to options for early acquisition efforts. They aren’t mutually exclusive, so feel free to explore one or more at any given time to see which ones resonate with your ICP.

Acquisition Quadrant

The Acquisition Quadrant further shows which channels have the quickest time to ROI and the most scalability. Let’s dig into the top four recommended channels.

1. Product-Led Growth

Product-led growth focuses on using product-driven activities to drive user acquisition, conversion, and retention. Founders use their product as the primary marketing and customer onboarding tool and arrange activities around product usage and engagement. This includes product trials, onboarding experiences, customer support, feature announcements, and more.

In addition, founders focus on creating a strong product experience to ensure that users stick around and keep coming back for more. Product-led growth is a great way to create a pipeline of active users who are then converted into paying customers. This requires understanding their needs and making sure that the product offers something that they value. Founders can test and iterate their product to make sure that it meets customers’ needs (and makes them happy).

2. SEO

SEO is one of the most effective customer acquisition strategies. It can help you attract more qualified website visitors, who are more likely to become paying customers. Here are three tips for using SEO to acquire customers: 

  • Optimize your website for search engines and for mobile devices, too (for about half of your potential customers). 
  • Use tools to monitor your SEO efforts so that you can improve the visibility of your website in search engine results. We use Ahrefs, Google auto suggest to see what people are searching for, and Google Keyword Planner.
  • Give yourself some grace–SEO is a vast ocean of insight. It can take time to learn how to navigate it–so start simply and build out your strategy from there.

3. Founder-Led Sales + 1:1 Networking

When you are in startup mode, there are many things on your mind–from raising funds and perfecting the product to understanding what position you want your business to occupy in the marketplace. One factor that is often overlooked in the early days of sales. You can have everything buttoned up and ready to go but if you can’t sell to potential customers, there really isn’t much traction to gain. 

Founder-led sales are the process of a founder’s continuous effort to deliver the value of their solution and funnel prospects into paying customers. Why is it important and what advantage does it give the founder?

  • Improves the product
  • Teaches founders how to excel as a salesperson—to go out later and hire their own salespeople
  • Refines the ideal customer persona (ICP)
  • Makes founders one with their customers
  • Helps founders evolve as leaders and businesspeople

4. Paid Ads

In B2B SaaS land, we can be wary of using paid ads right out of the gate. And rightly so–as we hear horror stories of huge ad spends, unfulfilled promises, and vanity metrics. At HVL, we focus on modest ad spending in targeted channels with one goal in mind: to test if our messaging is resonating with our ICP. We conduct relatively inexpensive ad campaigns to gain quick insights and apply them to the channels that work or avoid those that aren’t gaining traction as we’d hoped. With a short runway of time and resources to learn and iterate, paid ads to accelerate our feedback loops, so we can move quickly and make informed decisions. Here are four benefits of paid ads:

  • Reduce time to knowledge
  • Get in front of people more quickly
  • Accelerate experimentation
  • Allow for scalability via other channels, after insights are gleaned

In Conclusion

As a founder, after validating your customer and identifying a problem that needs to be solved, it can still be challenging to determine how exactly to move forward. Follow the steps above to create a SaaS go-to-market strategy that will help you gain initial traction and acquire your first customer. At Harmony Venture Labs, we partner with founders like you who are interested in bringing their SaaS products to market.  Interested in learning more about our Entrepreneur-in-Residence Program? Learn more and apply today!

article by Kellie Clark

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