Whether you are bootstrapping your SaaS startup or you are already sustainable, by using some of the best growth hacking techniques, you can increase your recurring revenue and get closer to your yearly goals. Growing a SaaS business is often challenging, hence why not all founders succeed in making their business profitable.
In this article, I’ll walk you through some of the core fundamentals of growth hacking a SaaS startup and tell you how to promote your business to generate more revenue.
Some of the traditional growth hacking methods that you might be familiar with don’t work as well as they used to. Things are changing very fast online, and you always have to adapt.
Unless you are sitting on a pile of money, you can only afford to use growth hacking techniques that have proven to work for other SaaS businesses. As time and resources are often limited, it’s advisable to learn from other people’s success and failure instead of being a crash test dummy.
Below you’ll find 27 actionable SaaS marketing growth hacks that you can use right now on a tight budget. Depending on what growth stage you are at now, some of these strategies will work better than others, so choose the ones that are the most appropriate for your case. It goes without saying that you need to have a good product that you are proud of before you are promoting it.
Without any further ado, here’s how to go growth hack your SaaS to success.
1. Use content marketing to dominate your niche
Content marketing is one of the most important ways to promote your services. Everyone enjoys reading useful and inspiring content that includes actionable tips for anyone to use. However, content marketing is not as easy as publishing one 500 words long article on your blog on a weekly basis.
Take Buffer’s content marketing campaigns as an example. When they started their SaaS, a few years ago, they were just one of the hundreds of social media tools available at that time. They didn’t just made their software tool and hoped to be successful overnight. They wrote content. Lots of content that people liked and shared on social media, linked from their blogs and thus they have proven that power of content marketing. The content that Buffer published and still publishes is way above the industry average in regards to length and more importantly, quality.
Content marketing isn’t easy, and it’s not just about articles. It’s also about making videos, infographics and all types of content that people consume. A good content marketing campaign will help you get backlinks that will improve your SEO rankings and get more organic traffic. You can also get your brand in front of a new audience and become the go-to place for any information about your niche.
With content marketing, you can also write and publish guides for other authoritative sites by doing guest blogging. That’s a way to get more exposure from an audience that’s related to yours but probably hasn’t heard about your services yet.
2. Cross-Promotion with other SaaS and online businesses
Cross-Promotion is one of the well-kept secrets of successful companies. That’s mostly because up until now it was very challenging to find partners that are suitable for such partnerships and also running the campaigns was a bit cumbersome. You had to trust your partner that he will send the campaign promoting your business to the number of users you agreed on, without an option to verify if that was true. However, cross-promotion for SaaS is much simpler now, with the help of Cross.Promo.
If you are not familiar with Cross Promo yet, we are building the first cross-promotion tool for SaaS and online businesses to help owners and marketers easily find partners suitable for cross-promotion and then run on-going campaigns.
Cross-Promotion is a very straight forward process. You partner up with a different company that can sell complementary services to your business and then promote each other’s services. For example, if you have a web design business, you can do cross-promotion with a different business that offers content writing. Here are some cross promotion examples from well-known companies that are already using it.
With Cross Promo you’ll have an option to cross-promote only using your users that did not convert to a PREMIUM account, and this way use your existing user base to generate more leads.
Referrals are a very powerful growth hacking technique to increase your user base. That’s especially the case when you are giving a benefit to the user that’s referring someone else to your tool.
Ask for referrals in your app, but also on your communication system. If you want others to refer their friends to your tool, just ask them. Take Uber’s example. For every friend invited to their app, both get a $10 credit.
Dropbox did something similar by increasing the storage limitation to both referring users. This technique helped them increase their user base by 60%.
You can go one step further and even tell your users who to invite to your platform. Instead of them referring their parents or other family members that will have no interest in your platform, ask explicitly to invite colleagues or other friends that share similar interests.
4. Give away money or tool usage
Everyone enjoys getting little things for free, even millionaires. It’s like when you go to a restaurant, and the owner comes to you and offers a tea from the house. It’s a small thing that will remain in your mind and make you think about them the next time you want to eat out.
PayPal was one of the first SaaS businesses to use this technique and look at where they are now. Every new user that signed up with a PayPal account was getting a $10 credit, for free.
When you give away money or resources, you might get ten times more in return. Depending on your business model, you can give away credits, bandwidth or whatever you are offering, for free, to a limited number of users to test this growth technique.
5. Give away user accounts to bloggers
Bloggers are used to getting free access to tools in exchange for reviews or mentions on their future posts. Most of them do blogging for a living, and they are used to being approached by software companies for partnerships. Creating a good relationship with the well-known bloggers from your niche can get you a lot of coverage and reach an untapped resource of potential users.
You can offer them a free PREMIUM account in exchange for a detailed dedicated review or mentions on relevant future posts. They usually share these posts with their email subscribers and also social media followers, exposing your product to thousands of other potential leads.
One smart way to approach this technique is to do this with your users as well. If after the trial of your users expire they didn’t subscribe to a paid account after a certain number of days, ask them if they would like to use your tool to free in exchange for a review on their blog or on a popular site where they often contribute. You never know what famous blogger has tested your tool in secret and unless you ask them to review your tool, you are missing out. You can setup an email sequence to be triggered after a number of days to the users that have an expired trial.
6. Reach out to influencers
Just like bloggers, influencers are always on the lookout for new tools to try. Lots of people ask them questions before taking a decision on what tool they should buy. If you can convince the influencer to recommend your SaaS, you are a winner.
Partnerships are crucial to any business success. Always give away your tool for free to bloggers and influencers that can help you get the word out about your platform.
7. Collect email addresses
Email is the best way to communicate with your existing customers but also with your potential users. Do your best to collect your visitor’s email addresses and use that leverage smartly to your advantage. Collect your emails from your blog, when people register for a trial or even run contests where users can just apply with their email.
When collecting someone’s email, don’t think about converting them into a paying customer the next day. That happens in less than 1% of the cases. Instead, you’ll have to create a relationship with the user, and slowly prove him why he needs your services.
8. Do email outreach
Email outreach is essential for making B2B deals. A while ago I wrote an article on our blog showing how you can find anyone’s email address and then promote your startup. You can find potential prospects on LinkedIn using the advanced search and then use the numerous tools available, extract their email addresses and reach out to see if you can reach an agreement.
This strategy is very useful if you want to get your first early adopters or for closing great B2B deals after you’ve created a solid sales team. With cold email outreach, we managed to get more than 200 SaaS businesses sign up for early access on our cross-promotion tool.
9. Create a waiting list
Waiting lists are intriguing, and for whatever reason, it triggers people into thinking that if there’s a waiting list, there must be something good. A few years ago, the popular iOS email app Mailbox proved how using a waiting list is a successful way to do a pre-launch campaign. Their waiting list had more than 1 million persons in line, waiting to test their app. That automatically lead to a lot of press coverage, and ultimately they were acquired by Dropbox even before all the people in the waiting line had the chance to test the app.
You can make a waiting list for a new feature that you are going to release or if you are just getting started, think of a campaign that’s out of the box, like Mailbox did.
10. Do interviews and roundups with influencers on your blog
Everyone enjoys reading about other people’s success and inspiring stories. You can do monthly expert roundups or dedicated interviews with the most influential people from your industry. Ask them questions about topics that your audience would like to know more about.
Most influencers will also share the roundup on their social media profiles, thus increasing your reach.
11. Promote your SaaS to Q&A platforms
Quora is a golden nugget waiting to be exploited. People are asking new questions or browse for answers on older threads every day.
Jason Lemkin is one of the most leading SaaS influencers that are spending a lot of time on answering questions on Quora. His answers have more than 29 million views.
The beauty of Q&A sites is that your reply will not only serve the person that initially asked the question, but also other people that want to know more about that topic. Because of the authority of Quora, the question will be on the top of the search results, giving you, even more, exposure. That’s especially the case if your answer was useful and upvoted.
12. Get listed on startup directories
Your SaaS name has to be everywhere where it’s appropriate and related. Startup directories or collections are becoming more popular, and it’s an easy way to get a link and some traffic referrals. You can submit your site in just a few minutes.
13. Create a forum or knowledge base
Once your SaaS starts to get more traction, more and more people will start flooding your customer support with questions. By setting up a forum, your users will have a place where they can browse for resources and also engage with other people that have had similar problems.
Forums give your users a reason to come back to your site when new replies are published. Besides that, you will also start ranking in Google for new keywords that use the natural language of your users.
Gamification is one of the best ways to promote your startup. You can give discounts or special deals to users that perform certain actions on your platform. For example, if someone tweets a message recommending your tool to his audience, give him a 20% discount. There are endless possibilities that you can apply to use gamification to your advantage, but it all depends on your business model.
15. Spy your competition
If you are serious about your startup success, you must be up to date with your competitor’s progress and promotion campaigns. Whenever it comes to spying competition, there’s a checklist have to follow:
Subscribe to their newsletter. This is where they usually announce new features or talk about their achievements.
Test their tool every few months to see what improvements they have made.
Keep track of the backlinks they acquire from bloggers, authoritative sites or news magazines.
Even if you don’t have a direct competitor, checking what other SaaS businesses are doing will help you be up to date with the best practices that are working well for others.
16. Use call to action buttons inside your content
Your startup’s blog is part of your funnel, and you should get the most out of it. Besides having call to action buttons on the sidebar of your blog, you can also include some actionable buttons and links inside the content. Like any method, don’t abuse it because over promotion can do more harm than good.
17. Create a competitor comparison page
Users will always want to know why they should choose your to use your platform instead of your competitors. To ease things up for them, you can create a comparison page highlighting the most important features and the things that you are doing right, but your competitors are lacking.
18. Shorten free trials
The freemium models works perfect for most SaaS startups, but it’s not necessarily a rule that if something goes well for a business, it will do the same for others. A healthy growth hacking idea is to shorten your free trials from 30 days to 14 days. After running the test for a few months, see if the customer satisfaction is affected in any way and more importantly see how the conversion from free to premium has changed.
19. Give physical gifts to your best users
Customers that have been with you for more than one year deserve more attention. To maintain your relationship you can send them a handwritten thank you letter and also a symbolic physical gift by mail. This technique works great, and most users are pleasantly surprised and often publish a photo of the gifts they received on social media.
20. Build free small tools for your marketing funnel
Marketers are always on the look for small tools that can ease things up for them. Check if there’s any demand for a small tool that’s related to your business and if you can build it, give it away for free, outside of your main tool. That should help you acquire more backlinks so you can increase your authority and also get more people on your website which eventually can end up in your marketing funnel.
For example, if you have an SEO platform, you can create a small tool that can help users easily identify duplicate URLs from a report. There are many small tool ideas for any niche. Check what others have done and use Google keywords tool to see if there’s any demand.
21. Create how-to webinars
Webinars are a proven way to generate targeted leads. It’s a way to show people how to use your platform to get the most out of it. At the end of each webinar, there’s also a Q&A section where viewers can interact and ask questions. You can host webinars on a monthly basis and try to educate your users on how to use your SaaS to their advantage.
22. Create a great email sequence funnel
In the first days of signing up for an account on your SaaS platform, the user will probably be confused and might want some help. Besides the personalised greeting email that you should send after the user signed up, make sure to create an useful email sequence for the upcoming days. Here are some ideas of what you can share with your user during his trial:
- A video tour of your application
- How to use the tool in different scenarios, based on his needs
- Case studies of other people success stories
- The reasons why he needs to continue using your tool after the trial expires
- Offer your support and answer any questions that he might have
- Ask to schedule a 1-on-1 calls with users that performed certain actions and have a high chance of converting
23. User the “powered by” widget
How many times have you seen something cool on a website and you’ve been wondering, how did they done that? If your type of business permits, don’t neglect the power of using an ego widget. Show that the feature that’s present on a particular site is powered by your services.
For example, all websites built and hosted on Godaddy by default have a “powered by godaddy” widget. Some might be interested in removing that, but most people will not be bothered by that link. That’s free advertising that you should take into consideration. It’s good for acquiring new users, putting your brand’s name on more sites and also for building backlinks. Note that Google is not a fan of links acquired through widget links, so you might want to nofollow the links.
24. Get featured on startup communities
There are several startup communities that can help you get targeted traffic and also valuable feedback from an audience that’s very tech savy. Some of the most popular communities are ProductHunt, HackerNews and Reddit Startups. Try to get yourself listed in these communities and give away some deals in exchange for some qualified feedback.
Take into consideration that journalists are often checking these communities and if you manage to get listed in the “popular” category, you can also get more exposure by getting featured on some tech online publications.
25. Be transparent and share your startup story
Ever since Buffer made their startup story public, more and more startups have followed the same route. GrooveHQ and BareMetrics are two other startups that made every step of their journey public and also shared their financial details. By the way, we are sharing our startup journey at Cross Promo as well. In case you want to see how we are bootstrapping, you can read more here.
These startup journeys give people something to talk about and more importantly, they are attractive to people that are interested in SaaS businesses. For example, the startup journey of BareMetrics is often read by other founders that have faced the same struggles and difficulties when they’ve build their own business. And that’s exactly who their target audience is. Business founders and executives.
26. Take user’s feedback into consideration
Your user’s feedback can help you build the tool in the right direction. However, don’t fall into the trap of putting to much value on feedback coming from users that are not willing to spend any money on your tool. Just because someone comes to your site and says that your tool is too expensive it doesn’t mean that you should reduce your prices tomorrow.
Sort the customer’s feedback and see what is constructive and useful.
27. Go to conferences or hashtag hijack
Conferences are great because you can meet new people with similar interests and have the struggles as yours. It’s where you can form partnerships, relationships and why not, promote your business. If your budget allows, you can even sponsor a conference and this way you’ll get the chance to talk and be seen by more people.
To follow your route to success, you have to be everywhere where your audience is. Whether that’s at a meeting that’s online or at an offline event, make sure you are there.
If you can’t make it to the event, tweet using the official hashtag of the conference and interact with people on social media.