Master Enterprise Customer Acquisition in the B2B SaaS Industry

Customer Acquisition8 min read
Effective strategies for acquiring enterprise customers as a new startup in B2B SaaS

On top of building a great team and robust product, an essential task for early-stage startups finding their footing is developing an effective customer acquisition strategy. In the world of B2B SaaS, this means building relationships with potential customers over the course of a sales cycle that typically lasts up to 3 months, sometimes more. That’s a long process, which is why preparing a reliable game plan for moving enterprise customers through your funnel puts you well on your way towards sustainable growth. 

Stand Out as an Early Stage Company

Before we get into technical tactics, let’s acknowledge the difficulty of standing out to enterprise prospects in a market as crowded as the B2B SaaS industry. To do so, you need a personalized approach to connecting with customers. It’s key is to remember that leads in your funnel aren’t just potential sources of revenue—they’re full-fledged human beings. In addition to product features and pricing, connecting emotionally with leads can be a difference maker between them deciding to spend their money on you or a competitor.

To create this kind of connection, your elevator pitch needs to be tailored to the particular position of each potential customer. When discussing your product, center conversations around your lead’s problem rather than giving them a generic rundown of features. By focusing on the particular needs of a certain company, or even department, they’ll get an impression of both the potential of your product as well as your brand’s commitment to customer success. 

A deeper understanding of your prospective customer can also help with the sales process down the road. Given the complexity of SaaS tools and the problems they solve, a customer oriented introduction can help leads see addressable problems they didn’t realize they had to begin with.

Optimize your top-of-funnel

Central to any customer acquisition strategy is the funnel. Making sure every stage of your funnel is as wide as possible maximizes your chances of netting new paying customers. To learn how to accomplish that, let’s start from the top.

Optimizing the top of your customer acquisition funnel starts with having a clear idea of your ideal target customer. Deciding on a persona can help you narrow down the sorts of marketing tactics or channels that are best to invest your time and funds into. When it comes to B2B marketing, remember that it’s especially important to focus on what department they would specialize in and their presumed level of seniority. 

So what are some effective tactics for acquiring B2B SaaS prospects?

Cold outreach

Cold outreach means pitching your product or service to prospects with whom you have no prior relationship. As an early stage B2B SaaS company, this tactic can net you an initial batch of customers without a hefty cost. 

When reaching out, keep your messaging brief. Focus on including an incentive for your receiver to start a conversation. For example, you can try asking a question about their current pain points.

One important advantage of cold emailing is that it's easily scalable thanks to the many automation tools on the market at a low cost. You can additionally use data from these tools to figure out what kind of messaging is more effective than others. 

Partnerships

As a new company, you might not yet have the reputation to launch the same kind of wide-scale marketing campaigns as more established players in your industry. Comarketing efforts let you put your company in front of new audiences and help you carve an idea of what problems your product particularly addresses compared to your partners.

Events

Intrinsically, SaaS products are purely virtual. But that doesn’t mean your marketing has to be. Events offer a more organic way to connect with potential customers that humanizes your brand from the get-go. Not only does face-to-face interaction leave a bigger impression on prospects, it similarly gives them a concrete idea of what your employees are like to work with. 

Showing up to industry events is also a great opportunity for establishing yourself as a key player in the market. It’s no wonder B2B marketers rank in-person events as their #1 tactic for demand generation.

Content marketing

Content marketing is, specifically, a marketing strategy that focuses on publishing “content” that prioritizes entertainment or educational value over simply describing your product or service. This includes blogs, videos, white papers or webinars discussing solutions to the problems you’re offering is designed to address. Knowing your customers helps you produce effective content marketing that expands your reach on the web and gives you an opportunity to showcase your domain expertise.

SEO

Search engine optimization (SEO) is a must for any modern company, and involves tailoring your content to maximize its visibility in search engines. There are a number of SEO best practices that range from optimizing your website performance to writing a compelling title tag and meta description.

As an early stage startup, it’s difficult to rank higher than competitors who have been on the market for some time. But honing in on the right keywords, you can rank higher on more nuanced searches. For example, your chances of being easily seen on a query like “mentorship” are a lot lower than a more specific search like “mentorship for early-stage startup founders.” This is where having a robust content library and a solid idea of your target audience can give you a real leg up. 

Land New Customers—and Keep Them

Once you make your first point of contact with leads, they move into the stages of the funnel that nurture them into becoming paying customers. Equally important to acquiring new customers is delighting them so you retain them; retention post-purchase is a vital part of the funnel.

Engagement

In the engagement stage, leads become prospects. The goal of this step is to foster their interest in your offering into an intent to buy. Typically, this is when leads start regularly engaging with your content, subscribe to your newsletter, or start following one of your social media accounts. 

One effective way to draw leads into this stage of the funnel is putting call-to-actions (CTAs) on your website inviting visitors to subscribe to your newsletter or download a gated piece of content, like an ebook. Free educational webinars can also be an effective means of collecting contact information to nurture them further. 

Exploration

Before a lead decides to buy, they’ll want to assess how your offering compares to other options on the market. Giving them the means to adequately familiarize themselves with your product can go a long way towards getting them through the funnel. Depending on your business model, this can mean offering a free trial or using a freemium model.

With a free trial, potential customers are able to fully access your product or service for a limited period of time. This gives you a chance to showcase the efficacy of your product and the helpfulness of your customer success team. By guiding them through your product with intro emails or on-site tutorials, you can make sure they have the clearest understanding of the value your product can provide. As the trail winds down, make sure to send a few messages encouraging them to sign up for a paid account and reminding them of the capabilities they’ll miss out on by not upgrading.

Alternatively, with a Freemium SaaS model users can create accounts to access a free version of your product that has fewer features than your full offering. Your Freemium offering should have the right balance between demonstrating the effectiveness of your product and highlighting its limitations compared to the paid version. CTAs encouraging users to upgrade to a paid plan should be included both in welcome emails and on the platform.

Retention

After users convert into paying customers, they enter the final stage of the customer acquisition funnel—retention. The purpose of this stage is as the name implies to retain users and prevent them from churning by providing them with the learning tools and customer success support they need to succeed on your platform. Kicking them off with welcome emails and onboarding tutorials lets them get most out of your offering as soon as possible.

Once users are on the platform, it’s important to continue nurturing your relationship with them. A few ways to do this are maintaining a newsletter that keeps users informed with product updates and company news, giving them exclusive access to beta test new features for free, or asking for feedback with customer satisfaction surveys. Strategies like these can also be an effective way to up-sell them into getting even more value out of your product.

Stay on Top of Your Customer Acquisition Cost

While acquiring new customers can be much more  expensive than retaining them, it’s an obvious necessity for propelling your business. That’s why customer acquisition cost (CAC) is often considered one of the most important metrics for rapidly scaling B2B SaaS companies. Put simply, CAC measures how much it costs to acquire a new customer. Paying close attention to your business’s CAC helps you track your progress on acquiring new customers while ensuring that you're spending your startup’s runway effectively and efficiently. 

Ideally, you don’t want your CAC to be too high or too low. A CAC that’s too high indicates that you’re overspending on a customer acquisition strategy that isn’t sustainable. A CAC too low means you have room to spend on a strategy that casts a wider net for capturing potential customers. 

Average customer acquisition costs vary wildly between different industries and types of companies. If you’re a B2B SaaS company looking to land enterprise customers, it might be daunting to learn that average customer acquisition costs often exceed $10,000. But when measuring success, that number tells only half of the story. 

The easiest way to find out whether your CAC is high or low is to compare it to your industry’s average customer lifetime value (CLV or LTV), which is the amount of money a customer spends on your product while still a customer. A standard benchmark for a good CLV to CAC ratio is about 3:1. 

Conclusion

Any startup looking to make it big needs an aligned customer acquisition strategy. This is especially true for SaaS companies selling complex products to enterprise customers who typically vet a number of options before investing in a solution. Using these tips, you can begin laying the groundwork for a highly effective B2B SaaS customer acquisition funnel. 

If you’re hungry for more advice, try accelerating your growth with helpful feedback from an experienced leader who’s been in your shoes. You can book a call with one of our mentors to get direct insights on scaling your B2B startup from a top expert on customer acquisition.

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