Constant demand: building a demand gen flywheel for B2B SaaS
Almost every SaaS wants to start off with a low touch model and later add a sales team so they can move up market.
Never one for convention: at my last startup, we hit a point where we wanted to change from a direct only sales model to a low touch model and weirdly move down market.
Doing that took a heck of a lot of effort and when I wrote this thread summarising the key ideas, I took out a lot of complexity, reducing everything down to 10 principles.
But the reality of building a demand generation flywheel is actually that it takes time, co-ordinated effort and a well thought out strategy for doing so.
As if to undo my simplification, we just published an in-depth guide on how to build a demand generation flywheel for your product.
The lessons we shared in that post are taken from the work we’ve done with dozens of B2B SaaS companies who have come to us to increase their trials and demos.
But crucially, it also aligns with what I’ve learnt running a startup.
What are those lessons?
Before we get into this (and I can guarantee you’re going to pick up some value from this post so keep reading in a moment):
If you need help building demand and filling your B2B SaaS with high quality pipeline, you should consider working with us. Here’s why:
Focus on positioning and value proposition before anything else
It impacts literally everything you do.
Profitable demand gen starts with strong positioning.
If you’re not positioned correctly you’ll generate bad demand.
When you create your next marketing asset, ask yourself these questions to see if you’re correctly positioned:
- Who do you help?
- How do you differ from your competition?
- What problems do you solve?
- How does your product work?
If the answer to those things is not clear from your landing pages, your blog posts, your copy and imagery, then it’s likely you have a positioning problem.
At Powered by Search we created a system to help B2B SaaS companies to better understand their positioning — a task which can feel ethereal at best without a solid framework to go with it.
We call it the SaaS Positioning Canvas and it breaks down into the following steps:
- Step 1: Your customers’ desires. What are their fears, frustrations, wants and aspirations? What is the cost of not solving this problem? Understand the obstacles that prevent them from fixing it themselves.
- Step 2: The promise. Examine your top 5 competitors and gauge what guarantees they make to your prospects.
- Step 3: The premise. Humans are naturally skeptical, which means they’ll likely see your SaaS products first through the lens of doubt. Instead of resisting, address this head on.
- Step 4: Difference chunking. Explain how your company gets results for customers in its own unique way. Answer questions centered around strategy, structure, systems, shared values, and style.
- Step 5: Market intimacy. List the common mistakes that customers make before using your product. Demonstrate the results you help your customers get relative to increased speed, certainty, and insight.
- Step 6: The positioning statement. What’s your reason for existence? Complete the statement: “That’s why we…”
- Step 7: The alternative. Detail the outcomes that happen as a result of inaction or not choosing your product.
Nail your positioning first before tackling anything else. By completing the canvas, step-by-step, you’ll have a document detailing what defines your company.
Note: To use this tool, make a copy of the SaaS Positioning Canvas and paste it into your own document to begin filling it out. No need to ask for edit access. (For the canvas to paste properly, go to File > Page Setup > Landscape and adjust the margins from 1” to 0.5” across the board.)
Get landing, product and blog pages optimised for conversion
Even when I left my last business 5 years in, we had content on our marketing pages that had been there since almost day 1.
The product had been through about a million iterations by that point. The marketing had changed messaging and positioning many times more.
SaaS websites evolve over time. Founders add pages. Early hires add some. Later hires add different pages.
There’s no coherent journey for a potential customer to go through.
The result is leaky funnels and lost prospects.
So optimising the right pages is key:
Make use of a headline that speaks directly to your audience and tells them that the product is clearly for them.
Align this to value props and positioning from above.
Follow that up with a strong benefit statement.
Best way to do that is to say exactly how customers are going to feel after using your product.
Here’s a whole podcast episode on doing better with landing page mistakes:
SaaS Marketing Bites from Powered By Search
Your SaaS website's homepage is where the relationship with your customers begins. Having a homepage that's clear about…
Products and features pages
Lots of companies forget that product and features pages aren’t just lists of all their features.
They’re an opportunity to tell a story about how a user’s pain will be solved by the features in your product.
Go for the ‘deep dedicated page’ on the diagram below.
It’s clear that this is aligned to the pain points that a customer is feeling in their work.
Quickest win here is to answer these questions for a visitor before they’ve even scrolled:
- Does the product match what the visitors are searching for?
- Can it solve their problems?
- What’s the ROI?
- How can they take the next step?
Here’s a landing page we built for Truffle POS:
Does the product match what the visitors are searching for?
Yup! It’s restaurant online ordering software.
Can it solve their problems?
Absolutely. They’re tired of losing money to third party delivery apps. Looks like that list solves most of the feature questions!
What’s the ROI?
Bringing it in house generates 35% more revenue! That’s a lot if you’re running a restaurant.
How can they take the next step?
Click the big red button so that you can see it in action!
BTW — If you’re enjoying this, you’re going to love our blog post on this topic
Crazy: a lot of companies just plonk content onto their blog completely forgetting that it’s one of the highest frequency touchpoint for potential customers.
OPTIMIZE YOUR BLOG FOR CONVERSION!
Firstly, align your blog posts to customer pain points. A simple heuristic for assessing quality of your content: does this post help a visitor become a customer?
Who does this well?
An obvious example is Ahrefs.
Their target customer is anyone with a website who wants to do better in search.
So they write articles aligned to getting more traffic from search.
They pitch their product where it makes sense.
Avoid waiting until the end of the article to include a call to action.
People rarely read all the way to the bottom of a blog post.
Include CTAs in the body of your post. Here’s an example from the PBS blog:
Work out how you want to conduct SEO and content
No matter what industry or sector, optimising for search is important for B2B SaaS businesses.
Most people will still find you through one of these channels:
- Direct traffic
- Referral — links to your site
- Search — HUGE OPPORTUNITY
Here are the important considerations for SEO and demand gen in B2B SaaS:
Technical SEO — Don’t leak visits because your site isn’t performant
Increase page level topical relevance so that you’re fulfilling searcher intent
Decrease website and crawl errors — I use Google Search Console and Ahrefs site audit tool
Also cut the response time to deploy content changes — This might mean empowering content teams to do some of the work themselves.
Basically: remove as many roadblocks from the process of noticing a technical SEO problem and fixing it.
It may mean restructuring your market team slightly.
Technical SEO needs a lot of attention though so invest wisely!
Content marketing — Have the right things on your site
Start by consolidating existing pages:
- increase maintainability by having fewer pages to refresh periodically
- avoids keyword cannibalization — pages often end up competing with internal pages in search engine results. You can use the Top Pages report in Ahrefs to see what the top keyword is for each landing page on your site.
Next step is to create fewer pages.
Don’t just fall into the trap of creating a page for every new feature. Every new blog idea.
See whether you can combine several ideas into a strong narrative thread aligned to your user’s pain point.
The general effect of this is to increase the potency of every piece you write. There are many fringe benefits to doing this.
Finally for content marketing, consider content refreshes regularly.
B2B SaaS companies change fast. You’ve likely got a lot of outdated content on your site (as mentioned before)
Don’t waste your visitor’s attention span with stuff that isn’t current. There’s a cognitive load to every piece of bad content that your visitors must see — the compounding effect of this is actually net negative.
It makes buying choices much harder.
Outreach — Building authority and relationships
Build relationships with relevant publications in your industry. Publications in the broad sense. Publishing happens everywhere. It’s not just trade mags. What are the important Twitter accounts?
Use a tool like SparkToro to find out.
When you publish, share the link with them. Get their insights in the piece.
Ask them to share with their networks — My best SEO outreach results come from directly messaging influencers who I have relationships with on social media.
I live in Twitter DMs and private communities.
Most important: create content worth sharing.
Then build a distribution system to improve the chances of your ideal customers seeing links to your content.
Share many times! You will not annoy your networks.
I actually have a repeatable to-do list for new content. I clone it every time we create a piece of blog content for PBS.
There are 30+ action items on that and I just check them off as I go.
One easy win for SEO outreach is reclaiming unlinked brand mentions.
You can find those using content explorer on Ahrefs (AGAIN!)
Here’s how to search it:
Consider which channels work best for B2B paid ads
Effective PPC strategy starts with finding customer-channel fit.
i.e. Creative matches user behaviour and intent on the channel you’re running ads.
There are actually 6 different types of fit. We talk about this in depth here. Most people think they’re doing product-market fit wrong… but it’s more likely a more basic problem.
Most people who say ‘ads aren’t working for us’ are doing one of these things wrong:
- Not testing enough
- Not mapping workflow to buyer journey
- No remarketing set up and fail to use a pixel delay
- Not revamping their ad creative
We’ve run ads for dozens of B2B SaaS companies.
What are the most effective?
Allocate ample budget for LinkedIn ads. You’ll generate fewer yet higher quality leads
Provide LinkedIn with broad job titles of your ideal prospects
Align ad creative with user behaviour.
Lead magnet downloads > trial or demo signups.
Specificity matters here in a way that it doesn’t for LinkedIn.
2 main audiences:
- Lookalike audiences based on existing high LTV customers
Controversial: avoid creating custom audiences based on relevant interest for FB/IG ads
If you do, you’ll find you reach only a small percentage of the right-fit customers
Once again: this is about aligning user intent to your offer.
#3 Google Ads.
5 kinds of campaign to consider:
- High purchase intent terms
- Branded search e.g. ‘your name’ + reviews
- Brand vs. competitor intent
- Google display network with managed placements
- ABM lists paired with keyword targeting
Don’t worry if it feels like you’re not getting anywhere at first
There’s a huge amount of work that goes into creating a demand gen flywheel.
You need to create so many assets.
But don’t eat the elephant at once. Take it slow.
Build a system over time.