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Read Time: 6 Minutes 11.29.2017 Strategy

5 Essential Steps for Creating Your 2018 SaaS Marketing Plan

As we approach the end of 2017, it’s time to start thinking about your marketing strategy for the upcoming year. You’ve likely created marketing plans in the past — but don’t just copy and paste last year’s strategy for 2018.

As your company grows, revenue increases, and your client base expands, you must take a new approach to maintain momentum and continue gaining traction in the market. To create a useful, dynamic marketing plan, here are the steps that SaaS companies must consider:

1. Review Last Year’s Efforts

In 2018, commit to data-driven marketing that uses past successes and failures to inform this year’s strategy. Look at general trends you’re seeing in the data to identify opportunities and challenges. Pause to assess your target audience and buyer persona. Has it changed over the last year? Do you need to revisit your strategy? Should you pursue more buyer segmentation? What marketing tactics would you like to try for the first time in 2018?

Gather the data saved in Google Analytics, Email marketing reports, Social Media Platform dashboards, and marketing automation tools (if you use one). Use this information to figure out which sources are driving the most leads, conversions, and revenue. How do the majority of your new customers find you? Where do your marketing efforts fall short? What needs to be improved upon?

When analyzing performance, also consider how factors outside of marketing activity such as recent changes within the company, interdepartmental alignment, competitive landscape, or industry trends are affecting your efforts. Measuring ROI for your marketing efforts isn’t always a simple, linear calculation. However, using historical data, you can begin to optimize the channels that are delivering results and make sure that you aren’t allocating budget to the ones that aren’t.

2. Align Your Departments

Where is your company hoping to go in 2018? If you’re not all headed in the same direction, then it’s unlikely you’ll get there. To document your 2018 marketing plan, you must have a wholistic view of your overall company business plan, revenue goals, planned product/service changes, sales initiatives, and new markets you want to approach — and that means looping in your entire team. Schedule meetings and conference calls with key stakeholders and colleagues and have those discussions first.

If you haven't already, now is the time to establish a revenue/lead calculation based on your funnel metrics and revenue-growth goals. To do this, identify the gross revenue amount that marketing is responsible for generating — which research indicates is around 40%. Then clearly define how many marketing-qualified leads must be handed off to the sales team in every month. You can calculate this using your desired 2018 revenue and the conversion rates from MQL to SQL to opportunity to customer. The result will tell you the number of leads your marketing team needs to generate in order to hit its goals and empower the rest of the team to meet theirs.

New Call-to-actionAs you can see, marketing plans should not operate in a marketing silo. They must involve the entire team — from sales, to customer service, to product development — in order to work. The most effective plans are shared throughout the company, aligned across departments, easily accessed and understood by everyone on the team. As you document your 2018 plan, make sure that you are sharing, discussing, and revising it as you go. This will be key when you start to implement it in the coming year.

3. Determine Your Goals

You already know your short and long-term business objectives, but hone in on exactly what you need to do in 2018 in order to achieve your overall goals. Use your revenue-lead calculation from the last step, along with your data from 2017, to set specific success measurements for each marketing channel and tactic — think weekly MQLs, increase in website traffic, increase in social following, blog readership, landing page conversion rates and email click-through rates, among others.

You can also set goals that align with specific audience behaviors. For instance, a SaaS company that is targeting new business might have lead generation goals that would make activities such as gated resources, SEO, and landing page/website optimization a priority while a tech company that wants to increase customer retention and grow their client accounts might focus more on email marketing or online surveys. Consider where are you in your current product’s life cycle and how that might affect the goals you set.

Whatever your goals are, they should be strategic, quantifiable and specific. Put numbers to your goals: 65% more web traffic, 20% more MQLs, 50% conversion rate on landing pages, etc. These hard numbers can live alongside qualitative measures of success such as greater brand recognition and customer satisfaction. These goals will directly inform your channels and the tactics you use.

4. Set Your Budget

As your SaaS company grows in size and revenue, it's likely that your marketing budget will grow as well. In fact, all industries expect their marketing budgets to grow in 2018, with technology/software industry anticipating an increase of 12.2% from last year. Although budgets vary substantially throughout organizations and industries, research by eMarketer indicates that companies will likely spend between 30–45% of their overall marketing budget on digital marketing in 2018. In the technology/software industry, marketing generally accounts for 15% of overall budget.

Research shows SaaS companies invest 80–120% of revenue in sales and marketing. Some experts have proposed the idea of setting marketing spend at 40% of the gap between your current 2017 revenue and your desired 2018 revenue (called the “revenue-growth delta”) in order to produce those results. SaaScribe's survey of public SaaS companies revealed that each dollar spent on marketing and sales generated $2.20 over two years, demonstrating significant ROI.

Guided by your analysis of the past year, your goals, and your budget, determine where it makes sense to invest. Don’t make the mistake of cutting your marketing budget for 2018 because 2017 numbers weren’t what you wanted. Remember that marketing ROI doesn’t happen immediately and investing in a growth strategy is essential for achieving the goals you’ve outlined for the coming year and beyond.

5. Consider Channel Options

When creating a 2018 marketing plan, your marketing budget should be a mix of different methods based on the budget and goals you set, along with the audience you’re trying to reach. Traditional marketing channels such as PR, direct mail, event marketing, television spots and print advertising should be included in an integrated approach  — though only invest in tactics that you can prove will result in strong leads. However, this year, digital marketing continues dominate spend for most companies.

B2B Products and Services are expected to spend 11–12% more on digital marketing in 2018. Digital marketing includes content marketing, search engine optimization (SEO) and marketing (SEM), content marketing, social media, email marketing, and paid search. It also include brand and marketing foundations that include visual identity, website design and development, conversion tracking and more. For SaaS companies, your digital marketing efforts are foundational to creating an inbound marketing machine that generates leads that you can hand off to sales in order to achieve key revenue goals.

To determine which marketing channels will work best for you, ask questions such as: Which media platforms, channels, and tactics will reach your target audience? What trade shows are you going to this year? Are your goals to generate leads? Are you doing that through content or do you also need an AdWords budget? Is there a new marketing channel that you want to tackle this year: webinar series, podcast, Facebook ads? As you choose your channels, document your tactical goals and desired results. 

With 2018 only a month away, use these tips to create a marketing strategy that empowers your entire team to meet your company’s growth goals. We’ll cover the specific marketing tactics you may want to consider for 2018 in an upcoming post. In the meantime, shoot us a message — we’re happy to help craft your SaaS marketing plan.

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Lane Harbin

Lane Harbin

Digital Marketing Strategist Lane brings her specialties in copywriting, content strategy and inbound marketing to Golden Spiral as our Digital Marketing Strategist.