If you’re ready to grow your B2B SaaS company with marketing, you’ve come to the right place.
At New North, we’re one of the top B2B SaaS marketing agencies in the US. We’ve built and sold our own SaaS offering. And for the last decade-plus, we’ve helped B2B SaaS firms to build user bases, drive more sales, and grow using the right marketing channels.
We provide a wide range of marketing services for B2B SaaS companies, including:
- Content creation
- Website design and optimization
- Social media marketing
- Video marketing
- Pay-per-click advertising
- Email marketing
- Search engine optimization (SEO)
And more. For a full list of our services, click here.
If you’re looking for help with your B2B SaaS marketing, let’s talk. Schedule a free consultation with a marketing expert, and we’ll discuss the needs of your business, and begin to outline a path toward your goals.
If you’re looking to learn more about how to market B2B SaaS effectively, keep reading.
On this page, we’ll cover:
- What B2B SaaS is
- What makes B2B SaaS marketing unique
- How to create a B2B SaaS marketing strategy
- What a good template for B2B SaaS marketing looks like
- How much you should expect to spend on B2B SaaS marketing
- The top agencies to consider for B2B SaaS marketing
Ready to get started – and get your B2B SaaS business on the path toward growth? Let’s dive in.
What is B2B SaaS?
Considering you’re on this page, there’s a good chance that you have a pretty solid idea of what B2B SaaS is. But for the sake of clarity, let’s break down the term – because it’s actually a bit more complicated than you might think.
What is B2B?
We’ll tackle the simpler part first of our term first. B2B stands for “business to business.”
The key distinction here is that, as Disruptive puts it, “B2B businesses sell products and services directly to other businesses. Or, more specifically, they sell to the decision makers in any particular business.”
A few examples of B2B businesses:
- A commercial cleaning company that sells cleaning services to other businesses – not to individual homeowners.
- Cintas, a company that sells corporate apparel (uniforms, etc.) to service businesses.
- IBM, which sells technology products and services primarily to enterprise businesses.
- Our company, New North, which sells marketing services to businesses, not to individual consumers.
Key notes: B2B offerings tend to be sold at higher price points, because products and services are more complex to deliver and because businesses have higher budgets to spend. B2B offerings are often purchased by buying groups; there may be a single decision-maker, but there are usually multiple stakeholders involved in the purchase.
This is contrasted against B2C (business to consumer) businesses, which sell products and services directly to end consumers – take Nike, Coke, or Airbnb as examples – typically at lower price points.
What is SaaS?
SaaS refers to “software as a service.” This is where things get a little messier – there’s some debate about what, exactly, SaaS entails. It’s perhaps best understood when contrasted against on-premise software deployments. In the past, companies might pay a one-time licensing fee to have software deployed to their on-premise systems. This wasn’t SaaS; it was just software.
There are two key distinctions that make SaaS unique from the old model:
- SaaS is provided via the cloud. This means that the infrastructure and hardware needed for the software come baked into the offering; instead of having to accommodate software on-premise, companies that choose SaaS simply need to be able to access the internet.
- SaaS involves regular service. In other words, software that’s delivered as a service typically includes ongoing support and access to updates. For this reason, it’s most commonly sold as a subscription product (although there are many SaaS offerings that are available at one-time costs).
These are the biggest points of distinction. For more nuance, this video is helpful:
What makes B2B SaaS marketing unique?
Now that we’ve clarified what we mean by B2B SaaS, let’s clarify why marketing for this industry is a unique discipline. There are three considerations in play that make B2B SaaS marketing different:
The blend of B2C and B2B use cases.
First, B2B SaaS marketing blurs the line between B2B and B2C, which makes setting strategy more complicated. Technically, you’re selling a software platform to a business – so you’re selling B2B. But practically, a lot of B2B SaaS offerings look more like B2C products. Here’s why:
- They can have lower price points. Think MailChimp, or Slack, or Trello – those are B2B SaaS platforms, but they don’t cost tens of thousands of dollars to implement.
- They can have consumer and business applications. The Adobe Creative Cloud, for example, is kind of a consumer product – but many of the biggest Adobe customers are businesses.
- They tend to communicate with a B2C tone. Look at the messaging on Bamboo’s website, for example, and you’ll get a very consumer-centric impression, even though the software is used by major brands. It’s markedly different from the impression you’d get if you looked at a traditional B2B business – like, say, a commercial IT company.
The way sales happen.
This point is kind of an extrapolation of the previous one, but it’s worth breaking out separately: B2B SaaS sales cycles are strange. B2B SaaS marketing needs to account for this.
In typical B2B, you’ll have long sales cycles for high-price point items, and you’ll usually need to convince multiple stakeholders in a buying group before the sale is made. Think selling commercial cleaning services – you’d need to sell the facility manager, who would take your proposal to the managing group, who might approve it with some changes.
In B2B SaaS marketing, you can often win the sale by converting one stakeholder. For example, at New North, we just started using Asana because our new account manager loved the software and wanted to implement it for a project. There was no consultation with an executive group, no presentation, no proposal; we just jumped in.
The upshot of this is that, in B2B SaaS marketing, the key is almost always to convince the primary user. (In traditional B2B SaaS, you typically have to convince a buying group.)
The focus on all stages of the customer lifecycle.
Finally, B2B SaaS marketing is different because it’s more valuable throughout every stage of the customer lifecycle.
For most B2B companies, marketing is used primarily as a lead generation tool. Once companies become clients, they’re less frequently targeted with marketing messages. In B2B SaaS, though, marketing is key to user engagement and retention.
It can help to:
- Improve engagement. Marketing can remind infrequent users of the functionality that they have available – hopefully increasing MAU counts.
- Communicate software updates. If you use B2B software, you’ve undoubtedly seen email updates on functionality and product development. That stuff keeps users in the loop and engaged.
- Win back lost subscriptions. Marketing can target users whose subscriptions have lapsed to reduce churn rates.
In short, there’s a lot that marketing can do after the sale. This is true in nearly any B2B environment, but it’s especially true in B2B SaaS marketing.
How to create a B2B SaaS marketing strategy
According to Google, there are about 5,140,000 results for the search “B2B SaaS marketing strategy,” but the truth is that none of them mean anything unless you clarify what kind of B2B SaaS you’re marketing, and what kind of marketing strategy you’re looking for.
With that said, let’s provide a few key considerations that should shape your B2B SaaS marketing strategy (and if you want more customized marketing advice, again, the contact form is always open).
Here are two critical questions you need to answer as you create a marketing strategy.
What kind of B2B SaaS business are you marketing for?
The type of B2B SaaS business you’re marketing for will fundamentally shape your marketing strategy. You know this intuitively, but it’s helpful to codify things; doing so will help you to ideate, pitch, and execute your strategies.
Almost-B2C B2B SaaS
Think Slack, Google Business Suite, or MailChimp. These software platforms are typically sold at low price points and marketed toward individuals (rather than buying groups). There isn’t really a sales team – marketing leads directly to the sale, usually through a self-guided free trial.
Enterprise B2B SaaS
This type of company is more in the vein of traditional B2B. It’s built on high-price-point sales and it’s marketed toward buying groups – think Oracle or Salesforce. There’s usually custom set up involved, and there’s definitely a sales team. Marketing’s job is to make connections, not to drive home the sale.
Hybrid B2B SaaS
This type of company is somewhere between a standalone software offering (i.e. almost-B2C) and a customized solution (i.e. enterprise). They build and customize their software, but they want to move toward a platform that’s customizable by clients. Marketing’s job here is… confusing. You should definitely clarify your objectives before setting your strategy.
The bottom line: As you set your B2B SaaS marketing strategy, make sure you know the role marketing is supposed to play for your company.
What are your marketing goals?
Your marketing goals will flow from the type of company you’re marketing for. And you absolutely need to be clear on what those goals are before you develop your strategy.
Building a strategy without goals is like trying to pick out building materials without having blueprints. It will lead to waste.
For more on goal setting in general, check out this article. For a quick start, some B2B SaaS marketing goals are:
Define and locate your audience. Outcomes of this would be buyer personas, documentation on your market (i.e. the number of target users / companies, and lists of channels to target.
Define your message. The outcome of this might be updated branding, clarified value propositions, or a brand story.
Bring your message to your audience. This is where you’d start to target numbers – you might set a goal to generate 500k impressions on your target audience, for example.
Convert new users. Goals in this would revolve around conversion rates and raw signup numbers – for instance, you might set a goal to drive 3,000 free trial signups in a quarter.
Retain existing users. Retention is key to a healthy SaaS business, and marketing can help to support it. Goals might be a certain percentage of monthly active users or a certain reconversion rate for cancelled subscriptions.
Once you’ve clarified your business and your objectives, then you can determine a detailed tactical approach.
What does a good template for a B2B SaaS marketing plan look like?
It’s time to get into the dirt of the details. While there’s no copy-and-paste template for B2B SaaS marketing, there is a solid framework for devising an effective plan. Here are the four steps we recommend.
1. Identify your constraints.
There are usually three key constraints to identify:
The first constraint, and maybe the most obvious, is the marketing budget you’ll have to work with. Most marketing activities carry inherent costs – you need to know what you’ll be able to spend to know what activities you can do.
The second constraint you should identify is the timeline you have in which to accomplish your objectives. If you’re shooting for steady progress over a three-year period, your strategy and tactics will take that into account. If you’re trying to hit a target in three months, things will look a lot different.
You can’t just know that you need to get to 30,000 feet – you also need to know how long of a runway you have.
Finally, you should also identify the resources you’ll have to get the job done. This means taking stock both of personnel (internal team and external contractors) and technical tools (tracking software, CRM, etc.). You may find that, without access to certain people or certain tools, some initiatives are simply off the table.
2. Create sub-goals for each customer lifecycle stage.
Once you’ve identified the restraints your plan will account for, the next step is to break your big-picture goal down into actionable chunks.
Now, there are a variety of approaches to planning, and the approach I’m going to outline below may not work (or even be necessary) for your situation. But we’ve found that in most cases, it’s the most helpful way to ensure that you create a comprehensive SaaS marketing plan.
The key is to break things up by customer lifecycle stage. This is the linchpin to our B2B SaaS marketing plan template.
This approach means that you should identify marketing goals for your funnel, all the way from your unaware audience down to your evangelist users. When you do this, you’ll usually find that there will be 1-3 areas that are closely aligned with your business goals. These will then get the majority of your tactical focus.
Here’s what that might look like.
Goals for unaware audience
Your unaware audience includes people and companies who could benefit from your SaaS offering but don’t know about it yet. This may be a focus area if you’re a challenger in a mature market, or if you’re bringing an innovative product to an immature market.
Goals for this stage center around presenting your offering and its value to prospects who haven’t heard of those things. This often takes the form of impressions – the number of times your brand is put in front of the audience.
Example: Generate 1M impressions by end-of-year.
Goals for aware users
Your aware users are people who have heard of your product but haven’t submitted any information to you yet. Goals for this stage center around getting these people to become contacts. Typically, this means that you’re looking at conversion rates.
Example: Increase the conversion rate on our website to 3% over the upcoming quarter.
Goals for contacts
Your contacts are people who have submitted information – usually their name and email address – to you. Usually, they’ve done this to receive something in return, like a free trial of your software or an ebook. Goals for this stage center around getting these people to become customers.
Example: Drive $50K in additional AAR from existing contact list by end of year.
Goals for customers
This one’s obvious – your customers are people who’ve bought from you in the past. But your goals for customers can vary depending on your context and your business objectives. Usually, they take one of three forms: Either you seek to increase customer retention, or to increase average spend, or to drive more referrals.
Example: Drive 35 new sales from referrals over the coming quarter.
Goals for churned customers
Churned customers are users who bought your software and then cancelled their subscription. Almost always, your goal for this lifecycle stage is to win back these users. Occasionally, you might simply set a goal to gather information about churned users in the hopes of reducing churn in the future.
Example: Increase our customer win-back rate to 5% over the upcoming quarter.
3. Implement tactics to hit your sub-goals.
This is the part of the marketing plan that most people think of when they think of a “template.” Again, you shouldn’t copy and paste these tactics, and you certainly shouldn’t skip right to tactical planning without identifying your constraints and goals.
Once you’ve completed the first two steps, you can finally start to plan out the tactics you’ll use. Here are some examples of what these might include.
Tactics for unaware audience
Again, you’re usually seeking to drive impressions. Some of the best ways to do that include:
- Pay-per-click advertising (search, social, video)
- Traditional advertising (TV, billboards, partnered promotions, event sponsorships)
- Search engine optimization
To win at this stage, you have to understand where your unaware audience spends time – and especially where they spend time when looking for solutions like yours.
Tactics for aware users
Usually, you’re seeking to increase your conversion rate. Some of the best ways to do that include:
- USP and messaging refinement
- Conversion optimization
- Lead magnet development
- Email marketing
To win at this stage, you have to understand your audience’s desires and pain points. Then you have to get crystal clear in communicating how your SaaS offering can meet their desires or solve their pain.
Tactics for contacts
When you market to your existing contacts, you’re usually seeking to convert them into paying customers. Some of the best ways to do that:
- Email marketing
- Remarketing (on search networks and on social media)
- Educational content that shows the value of your product (webinars, videos, events)
To win at this stage, you need to consistently get in front of your contacts with compelling value. The game is similar to the game being played in the previous stage, but the stakes are higher.
Tactics for customers
When you market to your customers, you’re usually seeking to build engagement and excitement. Some of the best ways to do that:
- Email marketing
- Educational content (webinars, videos, events)
Depending on your business model, you may be supporting the initiatives of account representatives at this stage in the funnel. If that’s the case, you’ll need to integrate your marketing tactics with your accounts team.
Tactics for churned customers
When you market to churned customers, you’re usually seeking to gather feedback and draw them back in. (Sad as it seems, you should keep in mind that most people who churn are gone for good – it helps to have a thick skin during this stage.)
Some of the best tactics for this stage include:
- Email marketing
- Educational content (webinars, videos, events)
For a drop-dead tactical look at how we’ve approached this in the past, check out our article on the anatomy of a win-back email.
4. Analyze your results and optimize for next time.
The fourth and final step in this marketing plan template will position you for continued success.
As we noted at the outset in step one (identify your constraints), part of your marketing plan should include clarification of your timeline. When you’ve carried out your tactics over the given timeline, the next step is to evaluate your results.
For each stage of the marketing funnel and for every tactic, you should first identify whether your stated goals were hit. From there, you should dig deeper to uncover the “why” behind what happened.
There are many ways to unpack the data, but we’ve found that these two (debatably four) questions are a good starting point:
- What worked? Why?
- What didn’t? Why?
From there, you should begin to chart out what you’ll do going forward. We’ve found that these three questions are helpful toward that end:
- What will we keep?
- What will we cut?
- What will we change?
The answers – and the patterns you uncover in your data – will help you shape your next B2B SaaS marketing plan.
How much should you expect to spend on B2B SaaS marketing?
We’ve discussed tactics. And while we mentioned budget briefly when discussing how to set strategy, it’s usually at this point – after tactical brainstorming – that the the topic comes up again.
So, let’s revisit the question of cost. As it turns out, there are a few different common answers.
“B2B SaaS companies should spent 8% of their total revenues on marketing.”
This metric comes from a few prominent studies that suggest the average B2B business spends about this much on marketing and sales.
Likely based on studies, the U.S. Small Business Administration goes as far as to codify it:
“As a general rule, small businesses with revenues less than $5 million should allocate 7-8 percent of their revenues to marketing. This budget should be split between 1) brand development costs (which includes all the channels you use to promote your brand such as your website, blogs, sales collateral, etc.), and 2) the costs of promoting your business (campaigns, advertising, events, etc.).”
Note that the 8% figure accounts for all marketing – if you want to get more specific and break out digital marketing, most adherents to the 8% rule preach that the majority (around 75%) of SaaS marketing spend should be digital.
This is probably the most generalized solution, but it’s not a bad baseline to consider.
“B2B SaaS companies should spend 40% of their growth delta on marketing.”
This answer is more tailored to the SaaS space – and a little bit more technical.
If you aren’t familiar with the term “growth delta,” no shame. It’s simply a term for the amount of growth you want to achieve. For example, if you’re currently bringing in $10 million in AAR and you want to get to $20 million, your growth delta is $10 million. 40% of that, of course, would be $400k.
Obviously, this method of budget-setting is predicated on growth. Seeing as most SaaS companies are planning to grow, it works – but if your business is relatively stable, this solution isn’t a great one.
“B2B SaaS companies should spend as much as they can on marketing without losing money.”
I love this quote from Jason Lemkin (a SaaS founder and venture capitalist):
“No matter what the model says, you should spend $1 in marketing to make $1 in ACV [Annual Contract Value] wherever and whenever you can. And maybe even a lot more than that.”
The general idea is that, as long as you can stay ROI-neutral with your marketing spend – you should keep spending. Customer lifetime value, the thinking goes, will outweigh annual contract value. Plus, the more customers you bring in, the more referrals you’re likely to get.
So as long as you’re not losing with your marketing spend, you’re winning.
Here’s our final answer: Your marketing spend should align with your marketing goals.
As we discussed when talking about marketing strategy, budget is a constraint that will inform your goals – and vice versa. There’s no single answer to the question of how much to spend, but if your spend allows you to accomplish your objectives, you’re getting it right.
What are the top B2B SaaS marketing agencies?
All right, we’ve reached the final section of this guide. If you’ve read this far – congratulations. Hopefully, you have a clearer idea of what B2B SaaS marketing entails, how to do it well, and how to budget for it. As you consider your options, you may find that it makes sense to work with a marketing agency to help spur your growth.
To that end, we’ve put together a detailed list of the top B2B SaaS marketing agencies (you see the the full post here). On this page, we’ll give you our top three options:
Yeah, we’re listing ourselves at the top here. Are we biased? Maybe – but maybe we’re totally correct, too, and anyway, it’s our list.
Anyway, the brass tacks: As mentioned at the outset of this page, we do growth-focused marketing for B2B SaaS companies. Specifically, we’re focused on lead generation (building userbases) and branding (building awareness in your market).
We have deep experience in the B2B SaaS space; we built and sold our own SaaS product. What sets us apart most, though, is our agile approach to marketing (something there’s a good chance you’re familiar with). We’ve written more on how the approach impacts us here, but the gist is that we balance long-term strategy with short-term opportunities to get better results and drive leads.
At a Glance
Founded: 2008 // CEO: Tobin Lehman // Notable clients: Langner, Real Networks, Blue Pillar
We’re a great fit for enterprise SaaS firms looking to launch targeted campaigns and for startups that are looking to grow brand awareness quickly.
Single Grain is one of the more recognizable names in the B2B SaaS marketing space, thanks largely to the fact that their CEO, Eric Siu, is kind of a marketing celebrity – he hosts the podcast Marketing School with SEO-guru Neil Patel.
The backstory on the company is kind of interesting. Siu bought the agency in 2014 from a friend for $2. At the time, the company had been exclusively focused on SEO, but had been struggling and seemed on the brink of going under. Siu transitioned the firm from SEO specialists into a full-suite agency. From there, his team was able to steadily grow things to the point they are today.
Here’s how the company explains their approach:
We use smart, innovative, cutting-edge digital marketing strategies to find the right leads for your SaaS business, and can build marketing funnels that turn them into users.
The firm’s not exclusively SaaS-focused or specifically B2B-focused, but they have done work with some notable brands in the B2B SaaS space, like Intuit.
At a Glance
Founded: 2014 // CEO: Eric Siu // Notable clients: Intuit, SEMRush, Wave
Single Grain is a great option for B2B SaaS companies with closer-to-B2C products. They offer a wide range of services, and they’re especially adept at SEO.
Kalungi is a relatively new player in the B2B SaaS marketing space (the company was founded in 2018), but they’ve quickly risen toward the top of the field thanks to a focus on B2B SaaS. In other words – yeah, marketing for this niche is pretty much all they do, which is why they’re good at it.
Like ourselves and Single Grain, Kalungi is a “full service” agency, meaning they offer a wide range of tactics. However, instead of breaking down their offerings into different tactical channels (i.e. SEO, email, video, and so on), they break their services down based on the growth stage of their clients. So, they’ve got packages for teams from $1-10M AAR, from $10-$100M AAR, and $100M+ AAR.
Here’s how they explain their approach:
From starting up your business to scaling it to the top, we offer a variety of specialized B2B marketing services for software companies, and packages that provide results fast.
One last notable thing – they have a specific package for VCs looking to audit their investments.
At a Glance
Founded: 2018 // CEO: Fadi George // Notable clients: Acumatica, Ascend Software, Permit Docs
Kalungi is worth checking out if you’re looking for investor-savvy marketing or a very sharp growth curve.
Ready to grow your B2B SaaS company with better marketing?
You’ve reached the end of this guide. Good work, and Godspeed.
Remember, if you want help, our expert marketing team is standing by. Again, we’ve helped a wide range of B2B SaaS companies grow, and we’re confident we can help you.