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How to Turn Your SaaS Lead Nurturing Efforts into Lead Optimization Wins

by Neil Patel

If there’s one thing I see many SaaS companies do wrong, it’s focusing only their website and signup page. What they fail to consider is that both elements form just one cog of a bigger machine; optimizers often forget the entire funnel has to be optimized.

True, it makes perfect sense to optimize your signup page as this can have a dramatic impact on the number of upfront trial signups. However, you also need to consider the following questions:

  1. Are your paid signups increasing significantly?
  2. Would an increase in free trials translate to an increase or decrease in your churn rate?

In fact, optimizing for an increase in trial signups alone will only backfire if your funnel turns out to be defective, exacerbating the problem.

My solution, and something that many other marketers will agree with, is lead nurturing, not lead acquisition.

What is lead nurturing?

According to Intercom, 40 to 60 percent of an SaaS company’s free trial users won’t return after the initial signup, so it would be irresponsible to pin your hopes on your users transforming into loyal users all on their own. But why would users abandon an app or software so early? It could be due to the following:

  • The app turned out not to be a good fit for them.
  • The pre-app marketing didn’t match up with their experience.
  • They went bust and changed priorities.

But for the most part, the reasons why people abandon SaaS applications early are totally within our control. It all boils down to a failure to perceive the value of using the software. To solve the issue of early abandonment, you can do one of two things.

  • Improve the software.
  • Communicate your unique selling point more effectively.

This is where lead nurturing comes in — it provides a way for you to engage with your audience automatically. Even if they leave, you still have a way of keeping in touch and reeling them in once they’ve been sufficiently nurtured. Below are seven lead nurturing techniques and methods to incorporate into your SaaS marketing campaign.

1. To give is to receive.

While this may sound like a philanthropic philosophy, it’s actually based on the law of reciprocity, which basically says you get more than you give.

Here’s how it works.

reciprocity in action

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In the context of digital marketing — lead nurturing in particular — it basically means that a campaign centered on providing the most value to audiences will also have a higher chance of generating interest and capturing customers.

There are a variety of methods that produce the goal — the lead. You can’t expect to go from inquiry to lead in one fell swoop.

Like many other marketing methodologies, lead nurturing involves funnels. Here is a look at several of these funnels.

The funnel below can work across a variety of industries, but is particularly suited to a large-scale service-oriented product.

demand generatrion waterfall

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This funnel has several digital tactics that help to qualify customers.

lead generator model

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In this visual, the customer begins as an explorer and ends up as an advocate.

lead nurturing funnel

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Whatever your particular model, you must understand that lead generation is a nurturing process, not a one-and-done, ask-and-receive tactic for gaining customers.

This is where I see many marketers fall short: They immediately ask for a signup or purchase during their first interaction with a user. What do you think will happen?

  1. They take the bait and sign up only to lose interest.
  2. They don’t sign up at all.

Of course, not everyone can entice users with bonuses and freebies. Instead of welcoming first-time visitors with an aggressive CTA, you could perhaps offer value through education, after which you can link to the same signup page, this time with a different message taking into account their stage in the buying cycle.

2. Frequent exposure leads to conditioning, which in turn leads to liking.

Whenever you’re asked to go to the store to buy something, whether it’s a bar of soap, bottled water, or software, chances are you’ll buy the brand you’ve been exposed to the most, whether you like it or not. This effect, called the mere-exposure effect, is one of the oldest tricks in the marketing book and is used to influence (some would say pester) you into liking a brand. Have you ever wondered what the point of product placements in movies and TV shows is?

the mere exposure effect

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This isn’t some kind of hypnosis technique or some form of unethical manipulation. It’s simply tapping into people’s tendency to favor something they’re familiar with over something they don’t know. The more visible you are, the more likely people will notice you and keep you in the back of their minds.

3. Aim for the small victories.

At its most basic, lead nurturing is about the long con (sans the negative aspect, of course). That is, it’s about trying to get little nods of approval that build up into one big thumbs up: your product offer. These little nods of approval are all about building rapport and trust, which is where the mere-exposure effect comes in. The more frequently you expose leads to your product/service, the more likely they’ll turn into customers.

Take note, there’s a clear line between repeated exposure and annoying users. You want to build trust, not turn your leads off, so don’t be spammy. For example, you can link to helpful articles or other content assets related to your offer before bringing them in for your sales pitch. Inform them about your product/service, show them its value, and finally, when you’ve led them on through the rabbit hole, make your big offer.

The next tip goes deeper into how to do that.

4. Train leads consistently to take desirable actions.

An effective SaaS lead nurturing campaign is hinged on consistency — consistency in keeping in touch with leads, and consistency in educating them. This is where a lead nurturing campaign really shines. By offering several consistent touch points to leads, not only are you increasing your visibility in their minds, you’re also training your leads to take desirable actions.

For example, if your touch points involve nurturing emails that link to valuable resources, such as a free download, a discount, or anything of value that can be received in exchange for some kind of action (e.g. replying to the email or clicking on something), you’re essentially training users to respond with a “yes.” If you do this long enough and people are conditioned to the value offered in your messages, then the positive actions they take will eventually be automatic.

And once you’ve built a strong relationship with your audience through your content, it will be far easier to get them to say yes to your big offer.

As you can see, this stage of the nurturing process combines the laws of reciprocity and mere-exposure, creating a winning solution that captures leads and turns them into paying customers.

Of course, the success of these strategies depends on getting the next factors down pat.

5. Combine inbound marketing and content marketing.

Inbound marketing is all about attracting, converting, closing, and finally, delighting. The initial step is to generate interest with your content marketing, which can come in the form of a blog, an email newsletter, or social media posts, pairing it with inbound marketing techniques through webinars, white papers, and case studies geared towards converting visitors into leads and customers.

Obviously, remarkable content will be at the heart of this strategy. I highly recommend that you check out this content marketing guide specifically for SaaS applications from SaaScribe.

The only problem with content marketing is that other companies are already doing it, so your space may already be crowded. As such, it’s import to go beyond just creating content. You also need to send it to the right audiences and influencers. To do this, you’ll need a strategy that addresses the following:

  • Reaching out to your target audience through the appropriate channels or platforms
  • Creating the appropriate content for these channels
  • Offering something of real value, something your audience will enjoy reading.

6. Don’t forget conversion rate optimization (CRO).

Your website plays a huge role when making an impression on your visitors. Your site should be clean, easy to navigate, fast, and responsive. It’s a repository for all of your content, like a library that lets you show your company’s collection of greatest hits.

As such, it only makes sense to take full advantage of it by doing the following:

  • Identify areas of your site that visitors zero in on.
  • Add calls to action that promote content with a high conversion success rate.
  • Focus on making small increases to your conversion rate — these can pay dividend the farther your users go down the funnel.

CRO is all about offering simple and relevant cues for visitors to follow throughout your site, testing and optimizing your messages when necessary, and being aware of how people interact with your site’s design elements.

7. DO NOT spam.

I touched on this a little while back, but I feel it deserves an entire section of its own.

Lead nurturing is not spamming. In fact, spamming has the opposite effect — it drives people away. I’m talking about those companies that ask for your email and contact information to access a white paper or eGuide, and within the next 24 hours, you get four emails, a phone call from a sales representative, and numerous text messages informing you of offers.

Overloading your leads with information is NOT the way to go, especially if you do it too fast. You’ll only cause them to raise their defenses and dismiss your company.

Here are some specific no-nos to take note of:

  • Don’t send new leads an email every other day.
  • Don’t send more than one email a week to leads that haven’t taken any actions in a while.
  • Minimize marketing phone calls and voicemails to those that are absolutely necessary.

The bottom line: You want to guide your leads through your sales funnel at their own pace, not by sending sales pitch after sales pitch the moment they express any kind of interest in your company.

Conclusion

If there’s one thing you should remember with SaaS lead nurturing, it’s not to focus on just one area of your website — like your signup page — to increase revenue. I’ve seen people miss the forest for the trees, focusing so much on revenue that they ignore other aspects of the conversion funnel.

Spending time and exerting effort on nurturing your SaaS company’s leads, as well as understanding the psychology behind the process, allows you to optimize your funnel from A to Z. Simply put, it allows you to guide your leads through your funnel until they finally make a conversion, thereby increasing your signup rates, decreasing churn, and maximizing value for your users.

It all boils down to:

  • Giving value to your users
  • Introducing users to your brand on a slow but consistent basis
  • Telling stories (through content marketing) that your audience can relate to
  • Building trust with your users
  • Optimizing your site for conversions, not just visits

What SaaS lead nurturing secrets can you share that have worked wonders for your campaign?

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Neil Patel

Neil Patel is the co-founder of Crazy Egg and Hello Bar. He helps companies like Amazon, NBC, GM, HP and Viacom grow their revenue.

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  1. Karan says:
    June 14, 2016 at 12:24 am

    Hey Neil, Nice article, but there’s a link broken to the Saasscribe article could you please link me to the one that works.

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