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What Makes B2B SaaS Marketing Different?

Jacob Brain


Neil Patel wrote a solid article on SaaS marketing where he claimed that it’s unique. An excerpt:

“SaaS marketing is not for the faint of heart. It’s challenging. And it is critically different from virtually every other type of marketing that the world is aware of.”

Throughout the article, Neil makes good points.

But, funnily enough, so does Sheldon.

Sheldon’s a commenter who wrote on Neil’s post in indignation (scroll down to the end of the article to see it):

“The article is so way off. The fundamentals of marketing remain the same in any industry.”

So… which is it?

Is B2B SaaS marketing markedly different? Or is it simply the same as marketing has always been?

This may come off as a bit of a cop-out, but I think Neil and Sheldon are both right.

Marketing is always the same, in principle – it’s about bringing a message to a market. But markets themselves are very different – and those differences impact how marketing can be done effectively. The fundamentals are consistent, but the practice varies.

With that in mind, here’s how the B2B SaaS industry is unique.

The blend of B2C and B2B use cases.

Technically, you’re selling a subscription 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. Low

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.

Of course, B2B SaaS companies vary greatly, and some may not have much of a B2C bent at all. But, in general, B2B SaaS marketing overlaps with B2C marketing more than most other B2B marketing does.

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.

This comment on the aforementioned Neil Patel article articulates it well: “B2B SaaS is transactional – it’s easy to switch from one service to the next. And did that transition take place in a day? No, it did not. What more likely happened is that a small team of people started using it, and then they gradually sold other departments on using the platform.”

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.

Want help making your B2B SaaS marketing stand out?

At New North, we’re one of the top B2B marketing agencies in the US. We’ve helped B2B SaaS firms to build user bases, drive more sales, and grow – and we’re confident we can help you, too.

Schedule a free consultation and let’s get into the specifics, so you can craft a B2B SaaS marketing strategy that stands out from the pack and gets you the results you’re looking for.

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