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1. Build a marketing strategy specifically for your SaaS solution

Although many of the tactics of marketing a software-as-a-service (SaaS) solution are identical to those used in marketing an on-premises solution, the strategic elements—the audiences, the value proposition, and the schedule—are different. You'll need to do more than simply tweak your on-premises marketing strategy to meet the unique challenges of marketing your SaaS solution.

2. Market the promise, not just the product

With SaaS solutions, customers are subscribing to the promise that your company will not only deliver functionality in the product today but also provide fast and reliable access to the application, protect sensitive data, and deliver valuable enhancements over the entire life of the subscription.

To win customers' trust, show them your future plans and your record of delivering on past promises, provide proof of your reliability, and give them evidence that you can provide security.

3. Invest in the brand

Customers need to trust their SaaS solution vendor. Market this quality as part of your corporate identity, your brand. Customers are investing in your company as much as in a particular product, and they want to be in a positive relationship. In addition to spending money on lead generation, allocate resources to ensure that your corporate brand message is positive, compelling, and clear.

4. Win over the IT professional

Though your solution doesn't run in their data center, IT professionals still care very much about your solution's security, reliability, and performance, as well as its integration with other applications. Address these concerns directly by providing the IT staff with all the documentation they require on any other critical application to be deployed in the enterprise.

5. Market to your customers

Your current customers' subscriptions will eventually come up for renewal. That means that they are also prospective customers, so treat them as such. Get them on board seamlessly, keep them informed of product enhancements, help them gain value from the solution, and engage them in a community.

6. Manage your customer-acquisition costs carefully

The sales and marketing costs required to acquire customers are typically the largest expense item on a SaaS solution provider's income statement. Ensure that you're spending this money efficiently. Under a SaaS business model, unproductive activities can't be covered by large up-front license fees.

7. Build a marketing process that can keep up with the development process

One of the fundamental advantages of SaaS solutions over on-premises applications is that they are updated frequently, perhaps every quarter. Put in place a process that makes it possible for marketing to keep up with this more-aggressive product-release schedule. The product-introduction process that fits the on-premises model won't necessarily fit the SaaS model.

8. Educate the prospective customers' procurement specialists

Purchasing SaaS solutions is still relatively new to technology buyers, and they may not be familiar with SaaS solutions' terms and conditions. Few contract standards have emerged about service-level agreements, credits, and subscription terms, and vendors have introduced several pricing models.

Educate the prospective customers' procurement specialists and legal department, and do it early in the sales process. Explain your rationale for particular terms and conditions, and ensure that your own sales executives understand what's negotiable and what's not.

9. Promote the entire experience, not just the features

The SaaS customer's experience includes the speed of deployment, ease of configuration, access to support, and the simplicity of the purchase process. Market all the features and benefits of the entire "service," not just the product's functionality.

10. Don't sell on price alone

SaaS solutions might cost significantly less than a similar, on-premises application, and that low price may generate a prospective customer's initial interest. But customers value other benefits as well, including rapid deployment, reliability, easy updates, and flexibility. In fact, they may view these as even more important than price. Promote those advantages in addition to the cost advantage.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Peter A. Cohen is managing partner of SaaS Marketing Strategy Advisors (www.saasmarketingstrategy.com), an advisory-services firm. He can be reached at peter.cohen@saasmarketingstrategy.com.