COVID-19 Marketing Essentials for Software Companies

December 23, 2020
Contributor: Rupal Bhandari

Almost a year into the COVID-19 business climate, marketing for software companies continues to evolve at a rapid clip. To keep pace, digital marketing channels and strategies require a refresh.

As the COVID-19 pandemic became a global business challenge, it forced many B2B businesses and software providers to use digital marketing channels to reinforce trust and salvage relationships with customers. In the initial months of the crisis, B2B businesses paused overly promotional ad campaigns, tailored crisis-related content for social media and used email marketing to communicate new policies. They also increased their spending on social media marketing and digital advertising: 49% for social media, 46% for email marketing and 43% for digital advertising (full content available to Gartner clients only). 

However, almost a year into the pandemic, software buyer journeys have also evolved to cope with frequently changing market conditions, internal policies, strategic priorities and work environments. For a SaaS company, it is critical to keep pace with those changes to continue getting sales and marketing advantage. It is also important to understand the new essential SaaS marketing strategies that are now commonplace thanks to the evolving business climate.

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Essential digital marketing tactics and channel best practices for software and SaaS providers.

Essential No. 1: PPC/PPL marketing

Pay-per-click (PPC) and pay-per-lead (PPL) advertising models allow software providers to generate leads from third-party sources. 

PPC services guide buyers as they search for the right solution through third-party source features — defined software categories, rankings and user reviews, etc. — and generate leads from refined traffic to software providers’ sites. 

PPL services provide buyers with personalized solution recommendations and deliver tailored leads based on a defined list of buyer qualifications. They also help software providers to target potential buyers based on industry, demographics and interests, and provide marketers with higher-quality incoming leads. 

For SaaS marketers already using PPC/PPL in their digital marketing strategies, here are some tips to make it more effective within the current climate:

  • Monitor PPC/PPL campaign performance basics such as click-through rate (CTR), cost per click (CPC) and conversion rate on a regular basis.
  • Use keyword research tools to identify newly relevant keywords that emerge as a result of evolving search patterns within the current climate. Notice how third-party sources rank among those keywords. Strategically consider third-party rankings and traffic when allocating PPC/PPL budget to reach pertinent buyers.
  • Go beyond search and social media for PPC/PPL marketing and explore third-party sources relevant to the software industry. Reviews platforms, product listing websites, community discussion forums and online software marketplaces all offer opportunities to connect with down-funnel buyers who may be more prepared to make a purchase.

Essential No. 2: Customer reviews and social listening

Good customer reviews on third-party platforms help promote software and SaaS offerings and provide strong social proof of product capabilities and usability for the target audiences. 

Social listening, on the other hand, helps marketers keep an ear out for mentions and comments about their businesses on social media platforms. In the current COVID-19 climate, it has become essential to leverage both these components within a digital marketing strategy to connect with growing pools of digital-first B2B buyers.

Here are ways to use customer reviews and social listening:

  • Look for third-party sources such as reviews websites and product listing platforms that share insights gleaned from product reviews and rating performance and help tap into reviewer demographics or firmographics.
  • Use positive customer reviews and social media mentions in brand advocacy content or campaigns. Identify the comments specific to the COVID-19 climate and feature them prominently on your website, product details and marketing collateral.
  • Take lessons from critical customer reviews and social media mentions; gain insight into the issues or concerns customers now face, how they should be addressed and own up to criticism offered either via direct responses or through other marketing materials.

Essential No. 3: Content marketing

Whether it is a blog post to promote thought leadership and presence in organic search or product resources such as buyer guides and how-to articles, the success of content marketing and inbound marketing success rests solely on whether the content ultimately helps the reader. When the target audience and potential customer gain genuine value from the content, it serves as a successful gateway to greater engagement and as a means to move the target customer through the sales and marketing funnel.

Here are ways to keep content relevant in the COVID-19 climate and keep pace with the evolving content marketing landscape:

  • Hold product launch events, conferences and seminars virtually as online-only events. Doing so will not only increase real-time engagement with buyers who attend, but will also help marketing teams create video content that can be used to fuel future marketing campaigns.
  • Provide digital walkthroughs and product demonstrations to buyers who simply browse your website and social media channels; don’t reserve them only for direct interactions with prospects or customers. Digital walkthroughs and product demonstrations have quickly grown in importance as critical elements of the B2B technology buying process, and ensuring they are readily available will increase customer familiarity with the product and improve brand retention.
  • Ensure that user and buyer enablement content, such as how-to guides, advice on product selection and product use tips are readily available and promoted through all marketing channels. Focusing on user and buyer enablement content, as opposed to early-stage sales and marketing funnel content, will ease potential buyers’ adoption concerns and help them make more confident purchase decisions faster.

Look at COVID-19 as an opportunity to reposition strategy and offerings for long-term success

The global pandemic has reshaped B2B software marketing and made digital marketing channels critical to the process. The need to get return on investment faster and visualize products without in-person software demos or walkthroughs also pushed rapid evolution of sales and marketing tactics in 2020.

The current climate also offers software providers opportunities to uncover smarter and more creative ways to understand buyer needs and address them.

While the essentials and tips included here provide strong starting points, software providers should look at ways to reposition their marketing strategies and offerings to ensure longer-term success. Ensuring that marketing materials and outreach guide buyers and prospects with information and insights that clarify product value and reinforce buyer confidence in these times of uncertainty will provide a solid foundation for the future.

Rupal Bhandari

Rupal Bhandari covers sales and account management markets. She received her master’s degree from the University of Delhi, India, and has created content for some of the world’s leading technology products and companies. Connect with Rupal on LinkedIn.

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