B2B SaaS companies often approach business with the assumption that if they have an excellent product, the right audience—their ideal customers—will find them. It’s what we’ve come to think of as the Field of Dreams philosophy: If You Build It, They Will Come. Unfortunately, in marketing, as in life, things rarely pan out the way they do in the movies, and companies that insist on taking this approach are liable to miss out on huge numbers of high-quality customers.
The truth is that although most SaaS companies are pretty good at identifying, in the abstract, who their ideal customers are, they’re often less adept at communicating with them. Too often, even if they can figure out how and where to reach their customers, they say the wrong thing or make the wrong offer to the wrong customer at the wrong time. As a result, SaaS companies filter out a lot of ideal customers before they have even had a chance to understand
- What exactly the company’s service is
- The ways it stands to benefit them
- How to make an informed decision about whether or not to invest in it
In this article, we’ll explain how we helped one of our longtime clients, a landscape design software company called Structure Studios, identify and then solve these problems. When they came to us some years back, Structure Studios’ circumstances presented a tangle of challenges. Some were simple measurement and tracking issues, detailed below, but others were more important, higher-level problems that we see many B2B SaaS companies struggling with:
Message-market fit: When the ideal customer for a product or service has been accurately identified and targeted and the conversion rate is low, chances are, the messaging is somehow filtering qualified leads out of the funnel.
Customer-content fit: Problems with customer-content fit arise when a company shows marketing content to a customer that’s not suited for it—presenting content designed for middle-of-funnel prospects to people who are still at the top of the funnel, for example.
Journey-offer fit: Similarly, SaaS companies can turn off ideal customers by approaching them with an offer that’s inappropriate to their current stage of the journey toward purchase. A common iteration of this is suggesting a free trial, which might be well-suited to someone who’s already planning to buy a SaaS solution of some kind, to a prospect who’s still problem-unaware.
We helped Structure Studios address each of these hurdles, growing their annual revenue from $8 million to more than $12 million. Below, we’ll walk through the process step by step. And along the way, we’ll show how other marketers can work toward similar results.
Note: If you’d like to learn more about how we can help your company communicate effectively with your ideal customers, you can sign up for our free 25-minute assessment here.
The Ideal Customer
Structure Studios, which is based in Nevada, specializes in turning 2D drawings and blueprints into navigable 3D environments.
When they first approached us, they had a high-quality suite of interrelated products with a variety of subscription options, which they’ve since expanded. Structure is firmly in the B2B SaaS space.Their solutions are designed not for homeowners who like to spend weekends dreaming up elaborate backyard renovations, but for professional, high-volume pool and residential landscape contractors—the bigger the better. Each of their individual products (pool design, landscape design, etc.) runs about $95 per month, while a combo package costs $165 monthly. (They also offer annual subscriptions.)
Their clients valued their service highly, and on-screen, Structure’s software had considerable visual appeal. Rather than a flat, charmless CAD or pencil-and-paper diagram, it provided lushly rendered images—of high-end residential landscaping, decks, pools, pergolas, and the like.
Challenges: Reaching Customers and Attribution
But for Structure Studios, an inability to accurately represent themselves to the public online was creating several marketing problems.
Reaching Customers and Messaging
First, although they knew exactly who their ideal customers were—and had excellent products to suit those customers’ needs—they were having trouble figuring out how to reach them, and knowing when they had.
So far, as far as digital marketing went, Structure had been targeting Google Ads search terms in a kind of haphazard way, with no clear strategy or imagined ideal customer journey in mind. Their efforts at paid social ads were lackluster, too, and they’d limited their messaging to bottom-of-funnel customers: professionals who were already in the market for a landscaping software solution and who therefore didn’t need much in the way of coaching in order to understand the benefits that Structure Studios could offer them.
Tracking and Attributing Leads
To make matters worse, when a given visitor interacted with their site, Structure Studios had no way of knowing, in future interactions with that visitor, what the nature of the first contact had been—whether they’d submitted an inquiry, signed up for a free trial or demo, or actually purchased a product. In other words, on the basis of their analytics, Structure couldn’t tell something as basic as whether someone who’d previously interacted with their site was a longtime subscriber or a habitual tire-kicker.
Of course, if Structure Studios didn’t have a good handle on who was seeing their ads, visiting their site, and what, exactly, they were doing once they got there, it was going to be very difficult for them to tailor message, content, and offer to the specific customer they were communicating with.
Deeper Analysis Also Uncovered Lead Quality Challenges
Like many B2B SaaS companies, Structure was using free trial signups as the metric for their marketing efforts. It’s not a bad approach, provided that a company using that metric is sure that a healthy majority of their signups are qualified prospects. When they contacted us, Structure Studios was already generating a fair amount of traffic to their website, and that traffic was converting into more signups than they thought they needed to justify their marketing spend. That is, they believed that their customer acquisition cost (CAC) per free trial was relatively low.
But when we looked under the hood, correlating data from Google Analytics with data from HubSpot, a more complicated picture emerged. As it turned out, relatively few of Structure Studios’ free trial signups were associated with the kind of B2B companies that are their ideal customers. The other signups were either tiny, one-man-band landscaping companies or by those ambitious homeowners we mentioned earlier, which is to say: unqualified visitors.
It was no surprise, then, that free trial users weren’t converting to sales at anywhere near the rate that Structure hoped for. It also meant that their CAC was way higher than they’d thought. Given that Structure was focusing at the time almost exclusively on bottom-of-funnel traffic, there was a certain irony in all of this.
As we mentioned above, for Structure, a bottom-of-funnel focus meant that they were trying to sell to professional pool and landscape contractors who were aware of the kind of 3D imaging solutions they offered, and who’d already decided that they were going to spring for one of the options on the market. They didn’t have any messaging, either in their ads or on their website, directed at landscaping pros who weren’t aware at all of such solutions, or who knew about them but might not have fully appreciated their benefits.
In effect, in part by being too vague in their messaging, Structure Studios was both attracting too much interest from unqualified consumers and neglecting a sizable portion of their ideal audience.
First, before we discuss our approach, let’s recap the challenges:
- An ad hoc Google Ads Strategy generally aimed at bottom-of-funnel keywords
- No offer for ideal customer types who didn’t yet already want their software
- No attribution model beyond last click
- No segmenting of leads by size or quality
And the major issues this was causing were (1) fewer leads than they could have been getting (2) Poorer lead quality than they wanted (too many small firms, too few large firms)
So our solution needed to fix the above challenges in order to improve the lead quantity and quality:
- A systematic Google Ads strategy
- Aimed at both bottom-of-funnel and higher up in the funnel prospects
- A solid attribution model
- A clear way of knowing lead quality (size of company, readiness to buy)
With that information in hand, we could start filtering unqualified visitors out, while bringing the previously neglected portion of Structure’s ideal audience in. Based on what we learned about the latter group, we could begin thinking about tactics—related to messaging, content, and offer—to guide them toward purchasing the Structure solution most appropriate for their specific needs.
Solving Tracking and Google Ads Targeting
In the past, Structure’s Google Ads objectives had been limited to tracking any interaction a visitor had with their website—a substantial reason for the messy data we described above. Owing to a relatively new feature of Ads, it was easy to tweak them so as to sort visitors who arrived via search into useful categories: lead, free trial user, purchaser.
We set up similar objectives in Facebook ads, and set about adjusting Structure Studios’ Google Ads strategy, layering their audiences and adding negative keywords to filter out B2C customers.
In the simplest terms, the overall effect of these maneuvers was to get Structure’s message in front of the right audiences, and to break those audiences down into buckets according to their readiness to buy. Once that message was there, to be doubly sure that it would draw in ideal customers and screen out any lingering unqualified ones, we used ad copy designed to have professional landscapers self-identify with Structure’s ads:
Understandably, Structure Studios had always been intent on owning searches for “landscape design software”. The term suggests the definite intent of the searcher to buy exactly what Structure sells. But within the universe of landscape design—and of Structure’s software offerings—are many subcategories: decking and pagodas, various kinds of fencing, shrubbery, flower beds, etc. Structure already had individual pages on their website devoted to showcasing how their software could help landscapers visualize and design many of these individual elements, and to make the best use of them, we began mapping keywords onto them, so that landscapers looking specifically for pergola-related assistance, let’s say, would see exactly that when they landed at Structure Studios’s website.
Adding Offers for Mid and Top of Funnel Personas
Similarly, because they’d been so focused on scooping up customers who were already ready to buy a landscaping software solution, Structure Studios had neglected, on their website, to provide the sort of educational content that would guide an ideal customer who was problem unaware and/or solution unaware toward considering a SaaS solution.
Ads would take customers directly to a free trial sign-up page, which said little about how Structure’s products could help them improve their business.
In other words, having improved their message-market fit to keep ideal customers on the path toward purchase, Structure was still making the mistake of immediately extending an offer that not all of their customers were quite ready to hear. They were still missing the content that would at least capture the ideal customer type’s contact information so they could stay top of mind and continue to market and educate these customers — who had a good likelihood to convert later.
This was a major omission—a missed opportunity to give prospective customers who fit their ideal customer profile content that could teach them about what was possible if they had Structure’s product. We imagined content that could teach landscaping firms how they could help their customers (homeowners) envision proposed projects in infinitely more vivid and detailed ways. This content could show them how their clients could see beautiful 3D renderings, rather than line drawings, which could help them sell bigger, more complex—and more expensive—services.
Structure Studios didn’t yet have this mid or top of funnel content. To meet that need, we helped them put together a landing page featuring a video describing how their software works, and testimonials from users who’d deployed Structure’s products not only to assist with the technical side of their job, but to help them win bigger projects and clients. It was exactly the kind of content necessary to make pro landscapers understand why signing up for a free trial with Structure was the right move to make.
Once Structure Studios’ tracking and targeting issues had been addressed, and their strategy adjusted in order to communicate effectively with ideal customers at all stages of the sales funnel, what remained was to combine those things, using Google and Facebook ads to get the right message, content, and offer in front of the right ideal customer at the right time.
We made sure that problem-unaware landscapers started seeing ads designed to illustrate the pain points that Structure Studios excelled at addressing, showcasing how a 3D landscaping product might elegantly solve problems that said landscapers didn’t even know they had.
Meanwhile, for pro landscapers who were problem-aware, we designed ads that mirrored their pain points, suggesting how Structure’s products could help them get their clients to better see their vision—and spring for big, lucrative design and construction projects.
Finally, for ideal customers who we knew to be both problem and solution-aware—and who had, in fact, already been educated specifically about Structure Studios’ software—we initiated a remarketing campaign, designed to keep our client top-of-mind when shopping for landscape design SaaS solutions.
If effect, we’d created a machine to continuously drawn in new ideal customers, and target them with the messaging and offer most appropriate to their stage in the journey toward purchase, more than tripling Structure Studios’ annual revenue in the process.
If you’d like to learn more about how we can help your company communicate effectively with your ideal customers, you can sign up for our free 25-minute assessment here.