A seemingly obvious channel, paid search is definitely one that needs to be given a lot of care and attention to be made an effective source of leads. Though often thought of as a "quick win," for B2B SaaS businesses, experimentation and consistent improvements are often needed to unlock its potential. Here are some initial strategies to tackle paid search.
High intent keywords
Typically, we find that high-intent keywords with good volume are the quickest wins because people already have that intent to purchase. Now, you just need to capture them and show up when they are searching.
These will likely be longer-tail, decision-based keywords such as “SaaS marketing agency” or “fractional CMO service” or “data privacy software.” A great place to start is to conduct customer interviews and have them tell you the terms they search(ed) for in their own words –just so you can bid on the exact match term.
Another way to kick things off is with a SEMrush report on search phrases your competitors are already bidding on. It’s also a great way to piggyback off the research your competitors have worked on, but this should never replace your own keyword research.
Consider a campaign focused on targeting your competitor's brand. If you were Coca-Cola, you would likely target “Pepsi.” This is a simple way to capture traffic from the right personas. However, be wary of relying on this strategy, as oftentimes the switching cost to throw your hat in the ring after the prospect already has a brand in mind might lead to you wasting your ad dollars.
If you are going to pursue this approach, consider creating a product feature matrix, and defining your 'best, better, only’ and positioning vectors so your messaging can be focused around “why we win against our competition.” Callout the specific benefits and features you provide that can't be matched by the competitor you are targeting.
This is a lot easier than you think. Utilizing tools like HubDB on HubSpot, can yield scalable, yet personalized ads. You should already have your segmentation based on your superpowers, customer location, etc. Now it's just a matter of putting it all into a hyper-focused campaign that shows details that resonate with your prospect.
Pro Tip: Paid search is often confused with being exclusively Google, and maybe occasionally Bing, but there is so much more to it. It’s important to not leverage what others are using but to consider where your company’s ICP really lives. When I was working as a Fractional CMO for a San Diego-based property SaaS company, I noticed that our Google and Bing ads were performing poorly. Upon further research, I realized that the target personas did not utilize those search engines, but instead relied on a more ‘community-oriented’ channel, Reddit.
The solution was to start engaging in forums and answering questions. Sure, it was labor-intensive, but it helped reach customers where they were, which led to over 200+ signups in under a month with no money spent on ads. While not entirely about “paid” search, it just goes to show how being in the right channels can lead to dramatic results. The paid aspect is merely a scaling mechanism to amplify messaging that resonates in a proven channel.
"Leads" machine, not an MQL generator: setting expectations
Before we even jump into paid social, I want to share a trend I’ve observed in my time as a CMO –just to help set the right expectations—paid social is not going to be your MQL generator.
When you think about it, you're catching your prospects at a very high stage –awareness. They aren’t searching for a solution on social media, they may not even be aware that a solution exists, or worse, they may not be aware of the problem they’re facing.
You’re often—more than not—interrupting their “personal” time when they don’t necessarily want to think about work. Find a way to use this to your advantage by offering them content that gets them excited. And of course, don’t forget to leverage Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. These are real people with real pains, feelings, and interests.
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Running your first B2B SaaS paid social campaign
There are dozens upon dozens of strategies you can take for paid social. Below are strategies I typically use when kick-starting/revisiting a paid social function.
I find utilizing it as a lead [see funnel stage blog] generating engine to be the most successful. Are there some lead magnets or pieces of content you can promote to help the prospect become aware of your business and the problem you are solving for? To help drive inspiration, read this blog on lead magnets.
Trust and reputation are everything. In our digital age, it’s no longer about who has the biggest store, or best website, but about overall online presence. Consider utilizing paid social for employer branding, or to boost interesting news about the company (while positioning it as benefits to your customers, of course).
As mentioned above, when marketing on social media platforms, remember that we’re typically interrupting them. That being said, if a prospect is subscribed to a certain group that happens to fit the bill for your ICP—target them. It's worth spending time to find groups that have those interests. You already know that they’re glued to the topic –so use it to your advantage. Upon adding groups to targeting, I’ve seen as significant as a 5X increase in qualified leads within a week. So try it out for yourself!
Oftentimes the quickest win is right in your backyard. There is no need to reinvent the wheel, but find ways to make it better. Pay close attention to your existing messaging:
- Have you conducted interviews to ensure that what you’re putting out there is resonating with your prospects?
- Are your social ads maximizing space in the square format vs. others?
- Do you have the right call to action that matches the readiness/intent of your prospect (try not to propose on the first date)?
- Are you utilizing videos in your ads to capture attention vs. static images?
All of these are factors that, while incremental individually, collectively can yield positive results when done right.
Which channels do I go after first?
The only answer to this is to be where your customers live. Sounds simple? Yes. The reality is that companies often feel they need to be on a certain social channel just because everyone else is there. This is rarely the case. You could be investing your hard-earned dollars into channels that your prospects simply don’t live at. This all ties back to truly nailing your personas.
That being said, for most B2B SaaS companies, I find Twitter and LinkedIn to be the most effective as these are generally more ‘professional’ channels where users go when they are in the ‘work’ mindset. Hitting them when they are in that mindset typically is more effective because you’re not interrupting them during their ‘personal’ time.
Don’t forget to nurture your leads!
If you’re not nurturing your leads, you’re doing something wrong. The worst thing you can do for your strategy is to leave your prospects hanging, especially after optimizing your channels and website for conversions. So, you have a list of contacts who are interested in what you have to offer, but what happens afterward?
With all these leads coming in, this is why it is crucial that you consider a plan for them once they enter your CRM system. What are the first emails they will receive? How will you speak to their pains and move them down the funnel? How do you weed out people who aren’t a fit? Remember, everything you send can and should be targeted and segmented. Continuously providing value and relating to your prospects as you nurture them down the funnel is one of the first steps toward building meaningful and long-lasting relationships. Read more about how to nurture your leads here.
Does it make sense to start doing retargeting on social platforms?
I get asked this a lot, and it always starts with data. What are your current traffic figures for the website, and who are your personas?
If you run a retargeting ad on social media for a demographic that typically doesn’t use social media platforms, then you’re just wasting your time and dollars. Likewise, if your website currently isn’t getting the most individual sessions, then does it really make sense to start retargeting a small subset of your visitors, and wasting calories on building campaigns for it?
The simple answer is to always be testing. The better answer is to consider your ACV and whether the CAC is worth it.
Leveraging paid media in your GTM strategy
Paid media plays an important part in your overall go-to-market strategy. To learn more on how to create a comprehensive GTM strategy for SaaS start-ups, download our ebook below!
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