Marketing automation in SaaS

The cost of attracting customers for a SaaS business is very high, especially if you are selling in an enterprise. Therefore, marketers in SaaS companies are often the most professional. As a rule, the most advanced marketing technologies are used in SaaS products too. In this article, we will analyze how to implement marketing automation in a SaaS business and what set of tools is needed for this.

The main task

At Apiway, we believe that the main task of marketing is to change the behavior of people after the consumption of information. First, people didn't know why your product was needed. Then they ran into your marketing and understood why they needed it. It has long been clear to SaaS marketers that content helps them attract customers. Only lazy people have never heard about content marketing. But content production is a very labor-intensive process. Moreover, sooner or later you just tell everything you can about your topic and start telling the same thing in the second round.

Try to create unique content on the topic of CRM or Email campaigns. It is very difficult. All that could be told was already told. Most likely, your blog already has a graveyard of articles on the topic "How to create a template for mailings for an online store, a template for a chatbot for an online school", etc. There is a lot of content and no one will read all the content. Based on this, we have a task.

You need to guide the customer through the existing content in a logical sequence.

When I talk to my clients, I always tell them: you or your best salesperson already have the perfect sales script in your head. You already use it in a conversation. Under some conditions, you tell one story, under other conditions you tell a completely opposite case. You choose the content from your head to fit the circumstances. It's like "if this then that" in your head.

Marketing automation is all about trying to scale and digitize the information you have in your head and then guide the customer through these bullets of meaning in a logical sequence.

Two approaches to selling SaaS

There may be many approaches, but I’ve noted two of the most important ones for myself. The first is when you sell without sellers. The lead registers with your app starts using it and then buys it. The key feature is that from the moment of registration to the moment of sale, you don't have a direct conversation with the customer. In most cases, this sales strategy is used when the targeted client is SMB.

The second sales strategy is phone calls or demo sales. Typically, this type of sales is used in an enterprise. In most cases, this works in conjunction with ABM (account-based marketing). The main difference between these two types of sales is the presence or absence of people in the sales process.

These two types of sales require a different approach to marketing automation. In the first case, we need to replace the seller with content. You want the content to tell you about your product and how to use it. In the second case, we need to increase the yield on the demo.

Improving reachability of the demo

The best way to explain all the features of your product to the client is through a demo. You schedule a demo for the customer, you call in Zoom, then there is a 30-minute pitch, answers to questions, etc. The biggest hole in the sales funnel at this stage is the reachability of the demo. And from both the client and the manager's side. If you think your sales managers don't forget about the demo, you are sorely mistaken. I often forget about the demo.

The easiest way to improve the reachability of the demo is with SMS notification. At best, the customer and the salesperson should get an SMS 15 minutes before the demo. When I leave requests for various SaaS products I usually get an email at the beginning and only then get a call for the demo. Why can't you schedule a demo right away? If there is a pre-sale in your funnel, things change a bit. But at some point in the funnel you will have a question for the client: "When would be convenient for you to have the demo"? You can use Appointment Scheduling Software for that.

In most cases, this kind of tool already includes the feature of SMS notification. But using different integration platforms you can easily set up a workflow when in 15 minutes all participants of the process will receive an email and SMS.

Auto Webinars

How can you hold a demo without salespeople? If you have SaaS for the mass market or SMB, you can't afford to call everyone who has registered in your service. But you want to show the demo to everyone, don’t you? Auto webinars are a very underestimated tool. Online education uses it very actively, but SaaS prefers to do live demos. If you can afford it - great, if not, then auto webinar software can help you. This is one of my favorite tools.

Most probably, you already have a video introducing your product. You'll ask, "Why to go to a webinar (or evergreen webinar) if the customer can watch the video on YouTube?" The problem with watching videos on YouTube is that on this platform, the user can get distracted very quickly and start watching something else. Another disadvantage of YouTube is that the user can rewind and pause the video. And it means that subconsciously he realizes, "I can watch this another time." When he's watching an hour-long auto webinar, he can't pause it. So you have a great chance of capturing his attention for an hour. And during this hour you can tell everything about your product. How to set up an auto webinar from the technical side you can read here.

The best way to make webinars/auto webinars is content-based. For example, your SaaS helps do Social media marketing (SMM) automation. You can create an auto webinar "How to start an SMM agency." At the end of the webinar, give a list of SMM software that agencies use most often. And talk about your product in more detail.

If you have SaaS, which provides Account-based marketing, you can create an auto webinar "How to target decision-maker". In this webinar, you can talk about what account-based marketing is and then talk about your software. You can create a whole series of auto webinars, which the user will watch for months.

One of the main functions of webinar platforms is to track user behavior on the webinar/auto webinar. This data you can send to the CRM system. The easiest automation scenario is to send a series of emails and assign a call to the sales manager after the user has attended a webinar.

If/else conditions

Automation builder is the main core of all marketing automation software. The essence of its work is to create different variants of the customer journey.

Based on the data we receive about the user's behavior, we can direct him to different sales funnels. For example, if the user came to a webinar, but did not register, you can send an email with an appeal to register. If the user was at a webinar and registered for the software, but did not pay for it, then send an email with a promo code.

The better is marketing automation software, the more features it has. In appearance, almost all automation builders look the same. The main thing is to understand how many features (triggers, actions, and conditions) they have.

Onboarding emails

The easiest way of onboarding is to send useful emails after a customer has registered. You can use email marketing software for this. It is best to make such a detailed video course about your software, that after watching it the user won’t have a question about what to do. Demo and auto webinars are features that allow you to sell your software. Sending emails after registration explains more about why a customer needs to use your software.

Very often there are email marketing tools in marketing automation software.


Perhaps the most effective onboarding tool is Live Chat software. When a question appears, the user can immediately contact the manager and ask this question. Today such software is becoming very smart. They adjust the chat to the user's behavior and constantly call to start a dialogue. For example, on the pricing page, the user might see a question in the chat: "Would you like me to tell you about pricing at our company?". Inside the product, the user might see an offer to read customer reviews.

At the first sight, all chats are the same. But when you look closely, there can be a lot of features hidden that allow you to make a personalized approach. Remember at the beginning of this article, we came up with the challenge of "Guiding the customer through existing content in a logical sequence." Chat software helps make that happen. They're like smart pointers that show which step to take next.

Banners can lead to specific content that the user hasn't consumed yet, but that content is critical to understanding the value of your software. When you have simple software, like auto-posting on social networks, most people understand this product category and they don't need to be told why they need it and how to use it. But imagine how difficult it was to explain to people about such auto-posting software in 2010. If you sell complex SaaS, it is crucial to make the user consume the training content. This directly affects the conversion rate from registration to sale. Onboarding services are responsible for content navigation.

Smart retargeting

You probably already know what retargeting is. But the problem with ordinary retargeting is that it just shows ads to everyone who has been to the website or a particular page. It's a bit like firing a machine gun. But in today's realities of ad prices in Google ads, it is better to use the sniper approach. Let's imagine that we have 100 people who were at a webinar, registered for the software, and didn't buy. We know that 50 of them fit customer avatar A and the other 50 fit customer avatar B. Let's say it's an SMB and Enterprise customer.

We know this after they were surveyed on the website. We transferred this data into our CRM and now we want to run ads with Offer A for SMB users, and for enterprise segment users we want to run ads with Offer B. Moreover, if one of them buys our solution we want to stop showing ads to that user. And to make it even more difficult, we want to turn off the ads with the first offer after 2 weeks and after that turn on the ads with the second offer. And then after a month to turn on the ads with the third offer.

Let's imagine that in this situation, the marketer is like a light show engineer who turns the different buttons on and off and adjusts the lights on the show. Similarly, the system can turn ads on and off. This can be done with the help of a custom audience. You can send a user's email and phone number through API to Facebook or Linkedin at different stages of the funnel. Also, you can send the event to Google Analytics to generate remarketing audiences. Then in Google ads, you can add and remove the user from that audience.

This can be described by words, "I want to show ads A, to user A at one moment, and ads B, to user B at another moment. And it will be automatic, without spending any man-hours”.

Lead scoring

This is an extremely important feature if you sell through content. To sell your SaaS you need to get some attention. How much time will you give all the nuances of your product in a personal conversation? An hour, two, maybe three? It's the same with content. Our job is to put the information that you tell about in those two, three hours into the content. This can be video, audio, or articles. Let's say we have three videos, five articles, and two podcasts. After consuming all these units of content, the user will get 100 points.

The software will automatically give points to a customer for some actions and then set tasks for managers to call or send trigger letters. More about lead scoring you can read here. The point is that with these points you can easily find the engaged leads, which is much easier to persuade to buy a product than cold leads.

WebSite tracking/event tracking

This feature tracks a specific user and pulls the information into the customer card in the CRM. It's very easy to confuse this with Google analytics, but they are different. Google Analytics tells you how many people were on the page. And website tracking tells you that particular John from your CRM has been to that page 5 times. This is very important information for your salespeople. They know what content the user viewed, and can start the conversation with the words "I see that you read our blog, this topic is interesting for you, let me tell you more".

That's a lot better than starting a call with "How are you?". With Website tracking, you have a reason to call. Event tracking goes even deeper into analyzing user’s behavior. We'll know that John was on this page for 2 minutes and 37 seconds, and he did 5 scrolls. This one is something like FBI agents’ tracking in Hollywood action movies when they know everything about a person. Where he's been, what he's eaten, and where he's going. You can do the same thing with your visitors on the site, absolutely.

What software do you need?

Now let's move on to the formation of the software stack, which is necessary for the full automation of SaaS. So, you need:

Marketing automation software - for customizing different customer paths in automation builder.

CRM system - for lead management (some marketing automation services have a built-in CRM module).

Email marketing software - for sending onboarding emails (some marketing automation services have a built-in email marketing module).

Webinar / auto webinar software - for broadcasting.

SMS sending software - for notifying users about the webinar and demo. Most often it integrates with marketing automation software and sends SMS at a certain stage of automation.

Livechat - for onboarding users.

Appointment Scheduling Software - for convenient booking and calendar synchronization.