Buckle up, marketers: It looks like the market's in for a bumpy ride. Parts of the economy that experienced high growth during the pandemic's darkest days are starting to feel the economic winds shifting. I'm looking at you, SaaS companies.
The "SaaSacre," as Bessemer Ventures calls it, is ushering in a harsh reality for SaaS companies that have been riding high on accelerated digital business initiatives and remote work needs.
The sudden, belt-tightening reality in SaaS investment and more down-to-earth valuations have forced many SaaS brands to consider how they'll conserve cash to weather an economic downturn.
Unfortunately, brand-building investments, such as PR, are typically first on the potential chopping block. But bringing a PR program to a screeching halt doesn't just pause press coverage; it also negatively affects market perception and ignores a rare opportunity to strengthen positioning when competitors may be pulling back.
As some B2B SaaS companies pump the PR brakes and consequently drop out of the conversation, brands should double-down on their positioning and demonstrate their value to clients in the downturn. They can show up as a solid force amid uncertainty, own the conversations in their categories, and emerge from an economic slump in an unbeatable position.
The following five approaches can maximize a SaaS company's PR investments during a downturn.
1. Go beyond obvious news
If you're like most of us in SaaS, you've spent the last few years watching brands announce higher and higher funding rounds with greater and greater frequency. But as the investment velocity slows, marketers need to do what they do best: get creative.
Instead of relying on blockbuster growth announcements...
- Establish thought leadership through interviews and contributed content, focusing on educating and helping your industry through the economic turmoil.
- Get customers to speak on your behalf.
- Use internal data and get creative with the type of information you can extract to manufacture news. Ferret out news on customer acquisitions, executive appointments, rebranding, and other growth milestones.
Now is the time to show excellence in different (and probably more sustainable) ways.
2. Extract the positives
When the going gets tough, it's easy to become myopic. None of us is in this business because it's a piece of cake, so let's examine the bigger picture. Despite what feels like relentless lousy news, bright spots still exist in the SaaS space.
Although VC investments have declined and many SaaS companies announced layoffs in the first half of 2022, Gartner still forecasts a 20% increase in worldwide public Cloud services spending this year, resulting in the market's reaching nearly $500 billion.
"We're not seeing any downturn or deceleration," Salesforce recently declared—and posted 24% growth at $30 billion in annual recurring revenue.
Some SaaS companies are seeing positive sales signals in their businesses, offering products that aid other business during a slowing economy. Some companies are doing incredible things to keep their current headcount and showing phenomenal leadership. We still have positives to discuss in the SaaS space, so don't duck and cover as a knee-jerk reaction. Find stories from within your own brand.
Plaster that big picture on the wall, and keep pursuing your PR goals with a re-energized focus.
3. Focus on the workforce
As SaaS companies pivot from headcount growth to staff retention, showcase why your company is a great place to work. Culture-driven thought leadership pieces can serve a dual purpose, boosting your workforce morale while projecting brand strength and market position.
Highlight what stands out to make you unique. Do you provide unconventional benefits, perhaps some that help employees during economic uncertainty? Does your company have a distinctive culture or unparalleled diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) initiatives?
In addition to writing thought leadership pieces on the company's attributes, seek out third-party validations. Company culture awards, such as "best company" or "top culture" lists, can do wonders for encouraging workforce wellbeing and establishing credibility.
4. Lean on leadership
Your executives are industry experts and seasoned leaders, so use them as such! Work to get executives in front the press to offer their expertise, respond to industry trends, and tell their stories.
That media exposure establishes your company as a thought leader and accelerates the sales cycle. After all, more and more digital natives sit on today's SaaS buying committees, and they're more influenced by your client's "direct or indirect customer experience" than its price or product.
Remind your clients or colleagues that a robust online presence matters, and making use of subject matter expertise is an effective way to build it.
5. Own your expertise
When it's time to redline marketing budgets, you want your brand-building spend to stand out as indispensable.
How? Be proactive.
Ensure your PR team is staying current on what's happening in the marketplace and within your brand's specific vertical. Offer your honest and informed recommendations, and think big—bigger than what's worked in the past.
* * *
We aren't fortune tellers or kids with a Magic 8 Ball, so we can't claim to know exactly what to expect in the coming months or years. What we do know is that fears of a possible recession have B2B SaaS companies feeling off-balance and leading them to operate on shaky ground.
Our job as brand-builders is to explain the benefits of sustained top-of-the-funnel investment, including—or perhaps especially—in uncertain times. We're more than ready to dig deep into our bag of tricks for PR tactics proven to drive long-term success.
They will also help you not only weather this brewing storm but also ride it out and come out stronger on the other side.
More Resources on SaaS and Brand-Building
Five Tips for Marketing a Subscription-Based Business
Ten Essentials of Software-as-a-Service Solution Marketing
Building a Standout Brand Goes Way Beyond Your Logo: Nick Westergaard on Marketing Smarts [Podcast]
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