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The Winning Software Marketing Strategy - Step by Step Guide

Ulf Lonegren

The Winning Software Marketing Strategy - Step by Step Guide

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Can we take a quick moment of silence for software marketers?

They’ve got a far tougher job than most people give them credit for.

Software Marketing Meme

It’s amazing how much work can go into an effective software marketing strategy. Sure, marketing a tangible product can be a chore, but software marketing really takes the cake. You’re dealing with a much smaller target audience, an industry that never stops changing, and the fact that you’re not selling a one-off product. 

Not to mention that your competition keeps growing year after year.

So what does that mean for you? 

Well, you’re going to need a top-notch software marketing strategy to help you stay ahead of the pack. And we’re here with some of the best strategies you can use to put yourself there.

But first, for those who are new to the whole software marketing game, let’s talk a little bit about what software marketing is all about.

What is Software Marketing?

Let’s get one thing straight: There are so many different types of marketing out there.

While most of them are pretty self-explanatory, almost all of them are more than just their title. It’s pretty clear that software marketing is essentially marketing for software companies, but let it be known that there’s far more to it than that. 

Pro Tip: If you’re going to effectively market software, you need to understand that you aren’t trying to promote one-off purchases.

 

Think about software pricing. Most of the pricing models are based on monthly or annual subscription fees. This means that you’re looking to nurture a positive customer relationship in order to keep customers from moving on to a competitor. Since your revenue is largely based on long-term subscriptions, customer retention is vital to your bottom line. 

Software Marketing Versus Traditional B2B Product Marketing

We’ve already mentioned that a successful software marketing strategy starts with embracing the fact that software marketing differs greatly from traditional product marketing. 

But what exactly are the key differences between the two? 

Software Marketing

Traditional B2B Product Marketing

Harder to show value, since you aren’t selling a physical product that customers can see or touch

Easier to demonstrate and promote based on having a physical product in hand

Relies on long-term customer subscriptions

Focuses more on one-off purchases

Upselling is a great revenue generator

Upselling is essentially non-existent in most cases

Armed with all of this information, no one would blame you if you’re feeling a little overwhelmed. It seems like the added difficulty with software marketing knows no end. 

Don’t stress too much. There’s a bit of a silver lining when it comes to software marketing strategies. As digital marketing trends progress, the focus has shifted from invasive outbound marketing strategies to inbound strategies that are centered around the customers themselves. 

It’s no secret that inbound marketing strategies aim to create a relationship with your customers. In fact, many of them are designed to help solve problems that your customers are facing. Since software marketing is often about building trust in your company as much as the service itself, the fact that digital marketing is moving towards a more customer-centric approach is beneficial to you. 

The Best Software Marketing Strategies

So now that you’re well-informed of the challenges that you’ll face when building an effective software marketing strategy, why don’t we move on to the strategies themselves? 

Here are our 5 favourite strategies for software marketing:

  1. Content marketing
  2. Email marketing 
  3. Free trials
  4. SEO 
  5. Software partner programs

Of course, there are tons of other strategies out there that work for software marketing. We’re not trying to say that you need to use every one of these or else you won’t succeed.

However, we believe that in order to get started with software marketing, these strategies give you the greatest chance at success.

Content Marketing

Content Marketing

Remember what we mentioned about inbound marketing and the successes that come from it? Content marketing happens to be a huge part of any successful inbound marketing strategy. 

There are a few different reasons for that:

  • The ROI is high on a content marketing strategy that is consistent
  • Content marketing is customer-centric and non-invasive
  • You get the chance to show that you’re an authority and leader in your industry
  • You can build trust with potential customers
  • You can attract a steady stream of prospects across the entire marketing funnel

But how do you actually get started with software content marketing? There’s a good chance you’re familiar with the concept, but the execution is often what leaves software marketers dumbfounded.

Set Some Goals

As is the case with any type of strategy, you’ll need to start by setting some goals. What are you looking to achieve with your content? 

An excellent method to use for setting goals is the SMART goal method.  

S

Specific

The goal defines exactly what you’re looking to accomplish and isn’t vague

M

Measurable

Can be tracked using different metrics

A

Attainable

The goal is realistic and possible

R

Relevant

Goal aligns with your overall mission as a company

T

Time-based

The goal has a realistic time-frame for completion 

Using this method, you can make sure that you’re setting goals for your content strategy that are easy to measure and are relevant to your long-term goals as a company.

Decide Which Types of Content You Want to Produce

Here’s where the fun really starts. 

There are so many different types of content to choose from. It’s almost like being a kid at a candy store.

However, it’s also easy to fall into the trap of trying to use too many different types of content without focusing on really nailing it with a few. 

When choosing your content formats, you need to pay close attention to the different stages of the buyer’s journey and how each piece of content fits into it. 

Awareness Stage Content

Consideration Stage Content

Purchase Stage Content

Blog posts

Case studies

Trials

eBooks

Webinars

Demos

Guides

Podcasts

One on one consultations

White papers

Comparison guides

Coupons

Checklists

Free samples

Quotes

Different content works better at different stages of the buyer’s journey. For example, during the awareness stage, potential leads aren’t ready to make a purchase yet. They’re likely looking for information related to a pain point they’re experiencing. In this case, a blog post addressing this pain point would go a long way towards pushing them further along the buyer’s journey. 

Conversely, offering a free trial to a lead in the awareness stage will often do more harm than good. They aren’t ready to test your service and will likely view this attempt as overly salesy and pushy. 

Take Wistia, for example. 

Their content strategy is rock solid because they’re aware of their audience’s pain points and use their own platform and expertise to address them. It only makes sense for a video hosting company to use videos to educate and help their customer base, right?

Using their learning center and blog, Wistia is able to reach and nurture leads throughout the entire buyer’s journey, which is ultimately the end goal of any effective content marketing strategy. 

Email Marketing

email marketing

Email marketing can be a bit of a divisive strategy.

Some view it as old news, while others embrace it and are well aware of the outstanding benefits that a proper email marketing strategy can provide. 

The truth is, an effective email marketing strategy produces an average ROI of $42 per $1 spent. Not exactly what we would call “outdated”. However, a poor email marketing strategy will lead to your emails being left unopened, or even worse, thrown in the trash. 

Build Your Email List

Can’t send emails to people without their email addresses now can you?

Every email marketing strategy begins with list building. You’ll need to gather email addresses from potential customers in order to send them content. 

It should go without saying that you should never buy an email list. Aside from being an incredibly shady marketing practice, it’ll also set you further behind rather than get you ahead. 

So, how exactly do you go about building an email list the right way? 

Two words: Lead magnet. 

Lead magnets are essentially incentives for your customers to pony up their email addresses. You likely won’t get many email addresses without offering anything in return, so you’ll need to come up with something to offer to potential customers in exchange for their email address.

Here are a few examples of different lead magnets you can use:

  • Ebooks
  • Webinar signups 
  • Checklists
  • Guides
  • Templates

We could go on and on about potential lead magnets. However, the key takeaway here is that you’ll need to provide something of value to your customer.

For example, check out DigitalMarketer:

They’re offering a Facebook Ad template library in exchange for an email. Something that they know their customer base would find value in because it helps solve a common problem.

Segmenting Your Email List

Once you have your list built, you’ll need to segment it. 

Remember, you need to pay close attention to the buyer’s journey. Not all leads are in the same section of your marketing funnel. By segmenting your list, you ensure that the correct content is going to the correct customer. 

For example, some of your email sign-ups might still be in the awareness stage. You don’t want these people to get bottom-funnel content in their emails. Chances are, they’ll hit unsubscribe and you’ll never hear from them again. If you segment your email list, you can easily avoid this dreadful mistake. 

Pro Tip: The bottom line is that building your email list is only half the battle. To ensure the highest ROI possible from email marketing, you need to segment your list.

Canva does a fantastic job with their email marketing campaigns:

Their emails are clear and to the point. They also include a fun CTA (call to action) to help persuade you into clicking through. And to top it all off, some simple imagery displaying their own service in action. Well done, Canva. 

Free Trials

Free trials are a common aspect of many software marketing strategies. They also seem pretty self-explanatory. You’re basically allowing customers to try out your service before they commit to buying it. 

However, there’s more to it than that.

There are actually two main ways to offer a free trial of your service:

  1. A limited-time free of your software with no feature limitations
  2. A “freemium” tier of your service, often with feature limitations

Limited-Time Free Trials

A limited-time free trial is designed to give customers a taste of your full product, with no feature limitations, for a short period of time. With this, they can decide for themselves if your service is right for them without any monetary commitment. 

The key here is that they have access to every feature. If you offer a few different tiers of your service, a customer may find features in your top tier service beneficial during their trial. In turn, they’ll be more likely to go with your highest tier of service, boosting your revenue. 

But how do you actually turn trial users into paying customers?

Here are a few tips to consider:

  • Offer a promotion towards the end of the trial
  • Start an email campaign for trial users with software-specific content
  • Keep the transition from trial to paid as simple as possible
  • Use a sense of urgency to your advantage

Free trials are incredibly common in the world of software marketing. For example, Basecamp offers a 30 day free trial of their service before needing to purchase:

Freemium Pricing Model

The freemium pricing model is a bit of a unique approach to free trials. The idea is that you offer a free, permanent version of your service. 

You’re likely asking yourself: “But if I offer my service for free, how do I make any money off of it?”

The catch is that you’re offering only a taste of what the full version of your service contains. Once customers are able to see the value of your most basic tier of service, you’re banking on them seeking higher functionality and features associated with your upper service tiers. 

For example, have a look at Acuity Scheduling’s pricing page:

They offer a freemium tier of the service in order to give their users a taste of their software without giving too much away. They’re also clearly labelling which features come with the freemium version and which ones their customers will be missing out on, should they choose to stay with that version forever. 

Free trials and freemium tiered service can work wonders for conversion rates if done correctly. Potential customers will be far more likely to purchase if they’re able to test a software before committing to it financially. 

SEO

SEO-for-saas

SEO can be a complicated beast to conquer in regards to a software marketing strategy. 

The key takeaway here is that SEO is meant to be a long term strategy. Expecting quick results and successes tends to be a common pitfall with SEO. 

Another core aspect of SEO is that it’s not really its own entity. Most of what you do online, including blog post writing and landing page creation, involves SEO. For example, a successful content marketing campaign will have SEO concepts as part of the focus. 

There are three main types of SEO:

  1. On-page SEO
  2. Technical SEO
  3. Off-page SEO

On-Page SEO

On-page SEO refers to the content directly on your website. With on-page SEO, the goal is to rank specific webpages on Google. Whether it’s a landing page, blog post, or any other bit of content.

On-page SEO consists of three main concepts, being:

  1. Keyword research, which is finding the most effective keywords to try and rank on Google
  2. Content creation, which is creating valuable pieces of content centered around researched keywords
  3. Keyword optimization, which is properly placing and using your keywords within your created content

While this might sound complicated, there are loads of tools on the market designed to help you with the different steps associated with on-page SEO. 

For example, you could use a tool like BuzzSumo to help you with keyword research and content creation:

BuzzSumo allows you to research keywords and view which pieces of content are performing well across all channels. With BuzzSumo, you’ll be able to come up with your own content ideas by drawing inspiration from other articles. 

Technical SEO

Technical SEO is more about the back-end of your website. The elements that aren’t directly website content. 

Think of things like:

  • Website load speed
  • Security
  • 404 errors
  • Mobile friendliness
  • Indexing

A simple Google search should pull up several different examples of SEO audit tools, which are designed to show you any flaws in your website’s back-end that could be detrimental to technical SEO. 

Like this one from SEOptimer:

Off-Page SEO

Off-page SEO is all about other sites linking to your content directly. This essentially tells Google that your content is valuable, and helps to boost your rankings. The more backlinks you get to your content, the higher you rank. 

Now, it’s not exactly a walk in the park to get other websites to link to your content. You’ll need to build relationships with companies that share a similar viewership demographic. 

It’s also important to note that when it comes to backlinks, quality matters far more than quantity. 

Here are a few different strategies and channels to look into when trying to network and get more backlinks:

  • Guest posting
  • Public forums 
  • Social media
  • Commenting on other blogs

Increasing your company’s visibility goes a long way towards getting authoritative blogs to link to your content. 

Software Partner Programs

saas partner program

The last of our software marketing strategies tends to be a slightly more complicated one, but can be incredibly valuable when done correctly. 

The thing about software partner programs is that there are different programs for different levels of businesses. 

Many of the common software partner program types boil down to two key benefits:

  1. Leveraging more well known brands
  2. Upscaling marketing efforts

It’s also important to remember that, like with any good partnership, it needs to be mutually beneficial in order to be effective. Don’t get caught up in all the rewards and forget that your partner needs to see some benefit as well. 

Here are a few different examples of partner programs you can use:

  • Referral partnerships - Offering users of your service an incentive, usually discounts or credits, in exchange for referring others to your service
  • Affiliate partnerships - Similar to referrals, the main difference is that affiliate partnerships don’t always involve current users of your service, the payment method is usually a percentage of the sale made, and the partnerships themselves typically take a little longer to forge
  • Integration partnerships - Involves two different software companies to work in tandem with each other for the sake of customer convenience and user-friendliness

Zendesk is a perfect example of a software company using partner programs with great success:

They have several different tiers of partnership, and each has the partner expectations and rewards clearly laid out. 

Software Marketing Strategy Summary

As you can see, a well thought out software marketing strategy is vital to your success as a software marketer. Without it, you’ll likely be setting yourself up for failure. 

Hopefully, armed with these 5 effective software marketing strategies, you’ll be able to better navigate the complex world of software marketing and come out on top. 

Still Have Some Questions?

There’s certainly a ton that goes into planning an effective software marketing strategy. 

If you’re still a little confused, don’t worry. We don’t blame you. Why not reach out to us? We’ll give you a helping hand.

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Ulf Lonegren

Ulf Lonegren

Ulf is one of the co-founders here at Roketto. His passion shines brightest when tasked with increasing business growth through inbound marketing. If you want to talk strategy, give Ulf a shout and you’re likely to see him spark with excitement.