If you’re looking to create your go to market strategy or GTM strategy before your SaaS is fully developed then you’ve already made smarter choices than so many other founders.
But no matter where you’re at in the launching process, these tips, common failures, and examples will help you learn what to do and what not to do when going to market with a new SaaS product.
In this post, we’re covering:
- A step-by-step go-to-market strategy for B2B SaaS
- Tips and best practices
- How go-to-market strategy differs from marketing for existing products
- Common go-to-market failures
- SaaS go-to-market strategy template
- Go-to-market strategy examples from 6 different SaaS companies
Go to market strategy for B2B SaaS
Since the vast majority of our readers are building B2B SaaS companies, that’s what we’re going to focus on here.
B2B SaaS is a different environment because…
- Go-to-market strategy is foundational product strategy. It maps out how the product the business will deliver can add value for the entire customer base as well as new target customers. This is a specific strategy concerning more finite new experience or series of new market experiences.
- Your new product is software-as-a-service (SaaS), rather than some kind of tangible goods or services: But with SaaS businesses, there is always some level of service involved with every value proposition, because only updated software has full functionality and value for potential customers. So in a very real sense, part of the specific product launch messaging for B2B SaaS businesses must promise the target audience a superior customer experience based on their pain points that only this new platform can provide.
- You’re marketing to companies, not people: This makes the go-to-market strategy for your sales team very different. Salespeople need to identify the best type of company to approach first, as well as the role or title of the stakeholders who will buy your product. They might also have different people who are champions, users, decision-makers, on the buyer’s journey, etc.
- You can more easily utilize certain outbound methods: While outbound marketing is still a thing in B2C (think direct mail and cold calling), in the B2B world you also have cold email at your disposal, and outbound, in general, can be more effective.
- The company size you target greatly affects your go-to-market strategy: The sales strategy is not just about selling to companies, but the right size companies. The demographics of the companies you target, whether they are really small businesses, other startups, SMBs, or enterprises, will have a huge effect on your strategy.
That’s just an overview of what makes the B2B market different.
Let’s dive into the best way to develop your go-to-market strategy.
Tips and best practices
Before we dive into the template and examples, let’s first take a look at some of the best practices for developing a go to market strategy as a SaaS business.
Keep it simple
Allan Dib’s 1-Page Marketing Plan can work for any type of business, and he’s done a podcast interview about how it applies to SaaS.
The thing is your SaaS go to market strategy should fit on a single page. Contrary to popular belief, it is not a long term, far ranging business plan. It is simply how you are going to gain your first $10k or $100k in MRR, depending on your business model, pricing strategy, and goals.
You can find a picture of the actual 1-page marketing plan here, but the idea is that you have:
- For prospects: One target market, one message, and one channel to reach prospects
- For leads: One lead capturing method, one lead nurturing method, and one sales conversion strategy or channel
- For customers: One core strategy for delivering a great experience, one core strategy for increasing LTV, and one core strategy for increasing customer referrals
Build your go-to-market strategy while building your product
The second most important tip is that you should be building your go-to-market plan at the same time or before your product. Marketing should be part of the product development roadmap. You should never build something and then wonder who to sell it to.
These things should go hand in hand.
- Use market research, data, and solid KPIs and metrics to inform how you will market your product as well as how you build it.
- Start selling your product (or at least engaging in lead generation) based on the GTM plan before your product is fully built.
- Experiment with buyer personas and different audiences (selling, collecting leads, interviews, surveys) to discover who has the greatest need for your product and then build it for them and build your marketing campaigns and channels around them
Stick to one market, one audience, and one acquisition channel at a time
This is a difficult one for entrepreneurs. Many SEOs worry that they’ll lose their competitive advantage by thinking too small. They think that by narrowing it down to business size, they’ve done enough. Or that by narrowing it down to role, that’s good enough.
In the long run, your SaaS product might be used by companies in different niches and new markets all over the world, but for now, you need just one geographical region, one ideal customer target persona, and one channel you will use to reach them.
If that’s working, do it until you’ve exhausted it. If not, tweak just one element of your action plan at a time until you find the combination that you should exhaust.
Common go to market failures to avoid
Related to the above, these are the mistakes that SaaS entrepreneurs should do their best to avoid.
Using too many marketing strategies
Don’t be everywhere. Don’t do all of the things. Stick to one core channel to begin with, whether that’s cold email, cold calling, or search engine optimization. If you feel it’s necessary to start building up some social media presence to show you’re alive, then pick just one platform such as LinkedIn to start.
Targeting too many markets at once
SaaS companies fail when they don’t stick to one geographical region. This might be the US or it might be Western Europe. It doesn’t have to be a tiny region, it just needs to be specific.
The reason is two-fold:
- There are so many opportunities, your team will get confused by not narrowing things down, causing customer acquisition efforts to suffer. Create a value matrix to focus your messaging and more carefully target new customers.
- Customers in the geographical region will recognize your customer logos or relate to your marketing better so that you can more quickly establish authority than you would if you were spreading yourself too thin.
- A customer support team is at its best when marketing efforts and multiple updates or new product launches are not overwhelming the rest of the business.
Going to market to enterprises without cause or connections
Targeting enterprise companies first isn’t proven to bring in more revenue for early stage SaaS companies, even if the deal sizes are bigger.
Enterprise companies have a longer sales process and more decision makers. They are harder to sell to, and they are typically not early adopters. They want proven solutions.
Only target enterprise if there is an exact product-market fit and if you also have some connections. You need a sure-fire way to get your first customer, so then you can create a business case study and leverage that success to sell to other enterprises. Your selected use case should be spot-on for each target customer.
Not using outbound when it makes sense to do so
Because inbound is so hot, SaaS companies tend to neglect outbound. While outbound methods aren’t necessarily the best go to market strategy, there’s a good chance they are.
If there’s not a huge need for content marketing in your niche or lots of low-hanging SEO fruit, then 9 times out of 10, outbound is what you should focus on as a very early stage SaaS.
On the other hand, if you already have a huge amount of excellent content on hand such as blog posts and webinars you can repurpose for content marketing, there’s little downside in trying it—as long as you’re not reinventing the wheel.
SaaS go-to-market plan template
What do SaaS companies need to decide on? Even if you don’t think your product has a niche, you still identify the best niche to start marketing your product too. Later, you can go wide, but in the beginning it’s all about going deep and narrow.
Copy this down and fill it out.
When you change it, put it in a new doc or section of your doc, and then date that new version. This will help you keep track of your pivots and maintain consistency and brand awareness.
Try not to change multiple items at once unless you’ve really gotten it wrong. Otherwise you’ll be in danger of making it difficult to test the results of changes to the customer journey.
- The core result of the SaaS product:
- The most important 2 or 3 features:
- The aha moment:
- The secondary 4 – 7 features:
- The end user:
- The buyer (if different):
- The market:
- The niche:
- The marketing acquisition channel:
- The customer conversion channel:
- The customer retention / onboarding strategy:
- The core brand message:
For the core brand message, we recommend you use the brand script template by StoryBrand. You can create your own free account here.
Examples of SaaS companies’ go-to-market strategies
Loom’s viral sharing
Loom’s screen recording Chrome extension became really popular really quickly. Why? It’s all thanks to the virality of the product. Users typically share their screen recorded videos with others, who then sign up for the free version of the platform.
Snappa’s SEO play
Snappa has positioned their website for thousands of high value keyphrases, and this was its go-to-market strategy as a fledgling SaaS. You can hear their founder talk more about how they find SEO opportunities here.
Adya’s referral strategy
Before their acquisition, Adya gained enterprise customers through their own personal connections and their referral program. The commission they gave to channel partners was 20% of the customer revenue for life. Learn more about their go to market strategy here.
Privy’s freemium model
Privy’s freemium model is a huge part of their success. That lets them gain new subscribers without the common objection of cost, and then to gradually grow their LTV as their customers get even more successful as e-commerce entrepreneurs. This also lets them grow via word of mouth. Learn more about their go to market freemium strategy.
TaxJar’s much-needed content
When TaxJar started out, there just wasn’t much content on sales tax for different states in the new world of e-commerce and rapid digital sales cycles. Even years later, there’s still a huge need for their authoritative content on topics that few expertly understand. Learn more about their go-to-market content strategy, and be sure to use a fully-featured lead capture tool when going the inbound route.
Brightwheel’s PR meets outbound strategy
Brightwheel’s founder appeared on Shark Tank in 2016 and did a deal with Mark Cuban to help bring his SaaS app to more daycare centers and preschools. The product helps streamline enrollment, attendance and parent communication. They put their Shark Tank infamy to good use by including mentions of it in their cold emails and direct mail to daycare center owners.
When you develop your own go-to-market strategy for your SaaS, make sure that you keep it simple and consistent. Pivot only when needed to avoid shiny object syndrome.