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How to acquire your early-stage SaaS customers? (2022)

We discuss how you can acquire your early-stage customers for your SaaS with insights from growth marketing experts and SaaS founders.

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Note: SaaSwrites is a curated growth marketing hub and resource built to help SaaS founders grow their products. We sincerely thank all our experts for their constant value addition to this world.

How to acquire early-stage SaaS customers?

Increase your customer base: There's no better way to increase growth than by acquiring new customers. Use effective marketing and sales strategies to reach new markets and segments. ~ Tweeting Monk
Lenny Rachitsky shares valuable learnings from his research on how to drive early supply

Top ten most common supply growth levers for early marketplaces

1. Direct sales
2. Referrals
3. Piggy-backing off of an existing network
4. Word of mouth
5. Subsidizing supply
6. Employees are early supply
7. Single-player mode
8. Performance marketing
9. Loops
10. Events
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One fascinating meta-learning that emerged from this research is how few levers individual companies found success in early-on.
The median number of levers that the biggest marketplace companies relied on to kickstart supply growth was just TWO (and the average was 2.5).
Let’s look into the top three levers:

1. Direct sales

Another significant learning (and surprise) for me in doing this research was how important one-on-one direct sales was. Sales ended up being a crucial lever for about 60% of the companies I talked to β€” twice as common as the next biggest lever.

2. Referrals

The second most common early supply-growth lever (tied with the next lever) was offering a referrals program β€” incentivizing existing supply to refer new supply. About a third of the marketplaces Lenny spoke with, saw a lot of success here.
"Referrals and ambassador programs were big for us early on. Double digits of %’s of new supply early on came from these programs."@Bnjii , Lyft"On the supply side, referrals was about 1/3 of the first trips β€” and they were also the best drivers." @andrewchen , Uber

3. Piggy-backing

About a third of the marketplaces also relied heavily on piggy-backing off of an existing network (in almost every case, Craigslist) to bootstrap their supply growth. When it worked, it was the first or second most important lever for these companies.
β€œThe first thing the launcher team would do when they launched a market would do is figure out supply. They would go straight to Craigslist.” @andrewchen, Uber

10 ways to persuasive techniques to acquire your SaaS customers

Dakota Robertson shares psychology tricks that are being used to persuade you every day. These 10 cognitive biases in your marketing make $$$

1. Endowment Effect

You value what you own more than what you don't.
  • Give your customer a sense of ownership by making your product personalized.
  • Get people used to using your offer by giving them a free trial.
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2. Confirmation Bias

You tend to look for information confirming your beliefs.
  • Do a lot of market research.
  • Address your prospect's pain points.
  • Confirm their beliefs and set up your offer as the obvious solution.
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3. Choice Overload Bias

The more options you're given, the less likely you'll take action.
  • Don't have too many CTA's or pricing plans.
  • Keep it as simple as possible.
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4. Halo Effect

You relate skill in one area to skill in other areas.
  • People associate your brand quality with the quality of your service.
  • Take the time to setup a high-quality profile.
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5. Empathy Gap

You underestimate the influence of your current emotions and how they will affect your decisions.
  • Use pictures or writing to invoke emotion.
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6. Foot-In-Door Technique

You’re more likely to agree to a big request after agreeing to a small one.
  • Incentivize people to take an easy action. Get them familiar with who you are before making a bigger ask.
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7. Loss Aversion

Your fear of loss is stronger than your desire for gain.
  • Frame your offer so it shows how much time, money, or headaches customers will save.
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8. Commitment Bias

You're more likely to be consistent with your past behaviour.
  • Get your prospect to take a small action. Download a lead magnet, take a survey, or use a free trial.
  • The small commitment increases the chances of people making a bigger commitment.
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9. Reciprocity Bias

You feel the need to repay someone who does you a favour. β€’ Give away a free course or e-book β€’ Produce free content packed with value. This also builds authority and trust with your audience.
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10. Liking Bias

You say "yes" more to people you know and like. Show your personality in your content.
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8 steps to study your market and compeitiors to acquire SaaS customers

1. Perform Competitive analysis

It de-risks your own growth experiments: Adopt the best growth ideas and avoid the worst ones.
Testing the right things quickly β€”> faster growth. This IS NOT about repurposing another startup's hard work. That's stealing. Instead, analysis is about:
β€’ Identifying the right companies to study.
β€’ Learning from their successes and failures.
β€’ Then prioritizing growth tests using your learnings.

2. Find the right companies to study

Look for those that:
  • Have a similar audience to you: e.g. small business owners
  • Have a similar business model to you: e.g. self-serve SaaS
  • Face the same growth challenges as you
  • Have sustained high growth rates for a long time

3. Tactics you can use to source their growth ideas

1. Study their A/B tests
2. Analyze their ads
3. Reverse engineer their best blog content
4. Audit their onboarding funnel

4. Study companies' A/B tests

Goal: See which A/B tests other companies are running and back into their hypotheses.
  • Turn on your browser’s incognito mode, hit their landing pages, and repeat.
  • Take a screenshot every time you see a visual change. That's a test.
Then compare the variants. Are they testing:
  • New value propositions?
  • New product imagery?
  • New social proof (e.g. testimonials)?
  • A different way to show pricing?
Determine whether it’s worth testing similar hypotheses for your own company.

5. Analyze their ads.

Facebook and Instagram
Skip the Facebook Ads Library. That'll show you ALL of their ads. You want their BEST ads:
  • Visit the company’s site (w/o ad blockers)
  • Then head over to Facebook (also w/o ad blockers) and wait for their retargeting ads to hit you.
Look for retargeting ads w/ the highest engagementβ€”a signal of high frequency, which usually means they convert best. Identify the hooks that compel people to click. Read comments: What questions do people have about the product? Use these to create your own ads.

6. Check search results on Google

Use Ahrefs to audit competitors' paid search keywords. You can find their click costs, search volume, & associated ads.
Take note of the keywords they consistently spend $ onβ€”these are likely winners. Conversely, consider deferring keywords they briefly spent money on.

7. Find top content.

  • Use Ahrefs (again) to find companies' high-volume keywords & blog posts.
  • Then use BuzzSumo to find stats on their post’s social media shares.
Find the overlap between high-volume & highly shared posts. Consider writing about these topics too.
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8. Audit onboarding funnels

For companies with a similar audience and business models:
  • Sign up for their newsletter/free trial
  • Buy their product
  • Engage with their emails
Note their attempts to reach out to you: emails, ads, & sales outreach. What do they get right?
Once you've used comp analysis to source and prioritize growth ideas, try this:
  1. A/B the best new ideas
  1. Measure if an A/B did well and whether it's worth implementing
Lesson: You don't have to start from scratch. Study competitors.
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