So much has been said and written about the pandemic, so we’re going to cut right to the chase. The world as we knew it changed, and companies had to adapt overnight! Shoe and clothing manufacturers started making masks. Restaurants launched cooking shows. And automakers are now building ventilators.
What about B2B SaaS companies? How are they adjusting to this new normal?
B2B SaaS products come in all different shapes and sizes, so there’s not one simple answer. The way they adapt their growth marketing strategies will be different from company to company depending on the type of industries they serve. Some SaaS products are actually experiencing a boom (think Zoom), yet the majority are not as lucky and must pivot some aspect of their business to survive and fingers crossed—thrive.
While the current crisis will eventually end, the events have changed the way customers behave forever. It’s still unclear how these changes will manifest in the long-term, but right now, all businesses must evolve with their customers to stay ahead.
At Zengrowth, we’re working with several SaaS products during this challenging time to help them rethink their business and pivot their growth marketing strategies. We recently talked to business and marketing leaders of some of the top Saas companies to hear how they are approaching their new normal.
Based on their insights, we’ve identified 5 effective ways that these B2B SaaS companies are adapting to meet their customers’ needs and position themselves for success in the future.
- Pivot your business model
- Attract new customers with incentives
- Adapt your marketing activities
- Help other businesses transition and grow
- Prepare for the future
1. Pivot your business model
The first and most drastic strategy is to shift your business model to adapt to the new market conditions. Confinement and shelter-in-place mandates have had the largest impact on customer behaviors. People have very limited access to in-person businesses such as restaurants, retail shops, and gyms. As a result, their online usage has skyrocketed.
For SaaS companies, how does your business model fare when your customers are exclusively online with little-to-no offline activities?
Shifting your model to survive: Urban Sports Club
Urban Sports Club is an app that provides companies with employee-fitness options with access to thousands of gyms and fitness studios. When your entire revenue stream relies on people going to a physical space to work out, you have to think fast to survive.
As you might imagine, Urban Sports Club had to change their entire business model overnight. Within a few weeks, they launched 45.000 online fitness classes with more than 1.000 partners.
In addition to offering online courses, the company refocused its content marketing to help companies keep their remote employees healthy. As remote work became more prevalent, Urban Sports Club quickly addressed the need for these employees at home to maintain their physical and mental well being.
Recently, the team organized 2 webinars where they gathered experts on wellness, remote work, and dealing with change.
Andrea Spiegl, B2B Marketing Manager at Urban Sports Club, also noted that instead of continuing with paid marketing initiatives like Google ads, they are using their resources to meet customer needs with free content. It’s a win-win approach when you can help people adapt to their new situation while also creating awareness for your business.
Expanding your model to grow: SocialHub
SocialHub is a social media management tool. Because online engagement across the world is growing even more now, they did not have to completely shift their business model to survive.
According to Gerald Glaßl, Head of Marketing, at SocialHub:
The most important thing for us was to have a plan in place that we could execute proactively. We are Doers and we did not want to be dependent on anybody else.”
Instead of being satisfied with business-as-usual, SociaHub recognized an opportunity to extend its SaaS offering with a new product. They developed a video conferencing software called SocialHub Meet, which was designed for companies and government authorities that require high-data security standards.
These organizations are not allowed to use Zoom, Hangouts, or any of the typical tools for their remote employees. SocialHub saw the opportunity and worked quickly to fill the need.
2. Attract new customers with incentives
More and more businesses are moving online during this period, which means there are more opportunities to acquire new customers through online channels. For B2B SaaS companies, this is an ideal time to drive trial of your product by offering it for free or with discounts.
Working with Zengrowth, the team set up an A/B split test for the new offer with two landing pages.
“So far the response has been positive as the CTR in the lead gen forms we’ve created increased from 0.15% to 0.58%.”
– says Yvana Vida Schade, Zengrowth’s marketing consultant who works closely with the team at Retorio.
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Even giants like Google are offering incentives. To compete with Zoom, they now offer their video tool, Meet, for free.
Responding to the crisis directly: Piktochart
For B2B SaaS products that can directly support those institutions responding to the crisis, this is a great opportunity to step up to the occasion and help.
Piktochart, the visual storytelling platform which allows people without graphic design skills to create infographics, presentations, reports, and social media visuals among others, found a way that their tool could help.
Agata Krzysztofik, Piktochart’s Head of Marketing explained, “We modeled various scenarios of how it could potentially influence our business. For each of these scenarios, we came up with a relevant strategy.”
The team knew that infographics and visualizations could be extremely valuable during this time where quick and effective communication is critical. They recently announced that they are offering 3-months of their Piktochart Pro plan for free to anyone fighting the spread of COVID-19. This is especially important for healthcare.
By offering relevant services to help solve the crisis, Piktochart found a smart way to expand their customer base while showing people what their organization is truly about.
3. Adapt your marketing activities
As customers’ behaviors and priorities are changing overnight, it makes a lot of sense to reevaluate your entire marketing strategy from your messaging to how you are spending money on ads and content.
More than ever, marketing must focus on your customers’ immediate needs. If you keep going for a hard sell or to show any signs of being opportunistic, people will be turned off. Let’s look at how two well-respected SaaS companies have pivoted their marketing in the past few months to maintain growth while also enhancing their brands.
Changing your messaging strategy: Holded
Holded is a SaaS that helps SMBs manage all aspects of their business including invoicing, accounting, HR, CRM and project management. As the crisis hit, Adelina Peltea, VP of Growth, had already been thinking about a different kind of marketing approach, which she calls “compassion marketing”. An idea that focuses on lending a helpful hand and cultivating a “we’re in this together” spirit.
Holded pivoted their marketing strategy to focus more on compassion marketing. Instead of talking too much about their product, they created content and ads that are more empathetic and answer important questions that their customers have. So far the results are positive.
Tom Wilkinson, Growth Operations Manager at Holded shares some initial results when comparing two date ranges from January 1st to March 19th (before Holded made changes) to after March 20th when they started to implement new campaigns.:
- 69% improvement in CTR (link clicks, not overall CTR)
- 31% improvement in first account creation rate (unique clicks to first account registrations – a free trial sign-up)
- 30% reduction in CPCs (link clicks, not overall CPC)
Rethinking your target audience: Brand24
Brand24 is a social listening tool that allows people to monitor mentions about their brand, products, competitors, or hashtags all over the web. While their customers come from a variety of industries, the recent crisis compelled them to rethink their key target audiences to ensure their marketing efforts were as efficient as possible.
“The marketing team conducted some quick research and analysis, and adjusted their buyer personas to align more with the current situation. Specifically, they identified the business sectors most affected by the crisis: e-learning and gaming.”
– says Kajetan Walczak, Performance Marketing Manager at Brand 24 and Growth Consultant at Zengrowth.
The second step was shifting their target audience from SMB to Medium/Large businesses, which led to a messaging strategy that highlights the global trends that Brand24 could help with, including:
- Companies are experiencing a transition time: Brand24 helps by providing data to help pivot your product.
- Marketing budgets are shifting more to digital. Social listening can give you more data to help you make decisions.
- Businesses are looking for educational content. Brand24 created an online course for people who’d like to learn more about social media monitoring.
As a public company listed on the stock exchange, they can’t share their Q2 results but the tactics seem to work as their sign-ups increased in March.
4. Help other businesses transition and grow
We’ve already highlighted some examples of how B2B SaaS companies can rise to the occasion and help businesses affected by the crisis. Whether it’s companies like Holded who shifted their message and content to be more useful people’s immediate needs, or Urban Sports Club who organized free wellness webinars to help people stay healthy, providing value through compassion is a win-win for everyone.
Here are four more noteworthy examples of Saas companies taking unselfish actions to support other businesses.
Typeform is a SaaS that specializes in people-friendly forms and surveys. Content Manager and Team Lead, Eric Johnson, told us that they wanted to explore and promote ways that Typeform could help connect with people at a distance. As a result, they started to offer their services for free to any nonprofit company with COVID-19 initiatives.
To take it a step further, Typeform promotes these institutions to help them get exposure for their cause. Check out this blog post that got this movement started.
CartsGuru is a marketing automation software for e-commerce companies. According to Vytas Dargis, Growth Marketing Executive, their response to the COVID-19 situation centers around a single objective: to help their customers seize the opportunity and thrive during this difficult time. The best way they could help is to provide valuable data and projections that are specifically geared at navigating these uncertain times.
They distributed their learnings to every customer in useful and actionable ways including articles, blogs, emails, and even phone calls in some cases. With useful and timely hints, their customers can adapt their e-commerce marketing strategies accordingly and make the most of a difficult situation.
Bonusly is a SaaS tool to help companies recognize and reward their employees. In mid-March, Marketing Manager, Ben Travis, noticed a large spike in traffic to their existing remote work content. With more and more traditional companies becoming “remote”, Bonusly wanted to help them adjust.
They quickly launched a Comprehensive Guide to Remote Work using existing and new content to share a cohesive guide around the remote work employee experience.
As a result, they saw an increase in blog engagement and received over 500 downloads of their guide.
Vipzresso, which is an educational platform from Piktochart, displays cool and useful data visualization about the crisis and how to stay safe. This is a great example of how Piktochart uses their product to help people, while at the same time everyone can experience how valuable their visualization actually can be for their business.
“At Slite, we’ve felt that we’re in a position to help during this time. We’re a remote team ourselves and we’re building a collaborative tool to help teams stay aligned and connected.”
– says Laure Albouy, Product Marketing Manager.
Slite felt they could help by:
- Offering advice, tips, and resources about how to work remotely. Hopefully helping other teams going through this transition so abruptly. They also hosted Remote office hours to share some tips and answer questions.
- Providing discounts to their tool for businesses affected by COVID-19
All the resources and adjusted pricing are gathered together on a special landing page which people can easily access from Slite’s home page top bar:
5. Prepare for the future
In addition to exploring new revenue opportunities and evolving your marketing, it is also a great time to lay the groundwork for when the next shift occurs.
If not now, then when? Are their new features you can be adding? Are there fixes that you have been holding off? You want to be prepared to hit the ground running when business starts moving again.
Lanes & Planes is a unique business travel SaaS that is currently at a standstill as the crisis prevents its customers from traveling. They are seeing this period as an opportunity to prepare in the best way to restart when the time comes. Juliana Mendez, Growth Strategist at Zengrowth who works closely with the team at Lanes & Planes, shares the five main areas her and the team are addressing:
- More learning: A strong focus on customer research and persona development to anticipate what people’s mindsets and priorities will be post-crisis.
- Planning content: Using the research to create customer stories and testimonials that make great material for (future) campaigns.
Lanes & Planes has been also adapting the tone of voice in all the current messaging to address the existing crisis which helps build meaningful conversations with prospects and customers. The focus is on helping people understand that it’s a good moment to review travel management processes for the future and how they can use the existing expense management tool, also for those working from home.
The team is also launching a new Corona Travel Update Center where prospects and customers get news on changes in the business travel world (airlines, regulations, hotels, etc).
- Growing leads: Shifting to non-paid initiatives and generating organic leads with their content and lead capture techniques including bots, popups and landing page forms.
- Automating processes: Improving lead generation by reviewing and creating automated processes along the customer journey (e.g. lifecycle flows), nurturing, and developing CRM integrations between different tools.
- Auditing paid channels: While it’s important to reduce paid marketing to conserve cash flow, try running smaller experiments to test and get some leads, but with an eye on learning and adapting budgets dynamically for the future.
Think long-term with an eye on today
The world has changed and it’s unclear what the future holds. But for today, B2B SaaS companies are continuing to find ways to adapt to this current environment. While some might be better positioned to find new revenue streams or expand their customer base, others are focusing on their preparation for when business starts rocking again.
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Customer priorities and needs are evolving, which means the value you provide must change with them. Stay ahead of the game by thinking about future scenarios and create strategies for each possible situation.
Stay positive and keep adapting! In the wise words of Bruce Lee:
“When you’re finished changing, you’re finished.”