The world of SaaS sometimes feels like it is changing rapidly in terms of product development and marketing of it. However, some things never really change. The best growth hacks for SaaS companies are becoming more and more standardized – standard with a personal twist! Because so many of these tactics are often used by everyone it becomes customary to have them in place, while trying to add your own spices to them.

We have listed the most basic and best-practice growth hacks for SaaS companies to use. They are easy to set up, so there are really no excuses to not use these anymore!

michel-employee-at-bammboo-growth-hacking-agency-amsterdam

Michel Faas

Growth Architect | Data Strategist

1. Preview the product before you sign up for a trial

Potential impact

Effort

This first tactic is used if your platform is simple to use and people need to perform actions in order for it to be valuable. Hence, when you spent 15 minutes working in a platform that was easy to use and understand, you are more likely to go for the trial period.

Even when you took this trial period, it is also likely the trial is of a higher quality. The reasoning for this is the time spent on getting to know the tool (and the value it provides). It would be easier to keep using it, than to admit to yourself that you just wasted 15 minutes, right?

When we spend time using a product or system we tend to build a bias towards that action.

Here is how it works:

you set up a preview mode in which users can make their edits without registering. In that preview, your goal is to let the users get to know your product, but also for them to find out how the product could help them. In growth hacking, this is often referred to as being the “Aha-moment”. This is the moment where the user experiences the highest value feature (the real use) of the product they’re using. By getting people to this point, while avoiding the hassle of setting up an account, you could improve the quality of trials by quite a bit.

If your product is too complicated for people to reach this stage before uploading a bunch of stuff, you could do a light version of this by creating a demo account for them to use with dummy data. That way the potential user can explore your platform and experience the UX before they sign up for the trial. An even lighter-weight option would be to give a video-tour.

2. Advertise on the names of your competitors with Google Ads

Potential impact

Effort

Advertising on other people’s companies is one of those tactics that just feel a bit off. The algorithm from Google even punishes you for doing it, so use this one with caution!

When you advertise on your competitors name there is usually no way to get lower costs per click than they get. Also, the conversion rates are not always great. Google still takes the regular user signals it always does to calculate quality scores for ads. Possibly the biggest factor in there are user signals. The last thing you will want here, is people leaving instantly because they have clicked on your link, thinking it was meant to be a competitor. Therefore, make it clear that you’re offering an alternative to another system and add some features to the text that your competitor might be lacking.

You can often find out what copy you should use, by looking up reviews of your competitor of external review platforms, like TrustPilot. With those words of caution out of the way, it is time to get to the fun of it (who doesn’t like beating that other company on their own playground!). If you advertise on the others’ name, there are some best practices to keep in mind. Let’s list them:

  • Name the ad title in a way it still makes clear you’re an alternative to product x.

This makes it clear to the ‘clickers’ that you’re not the same company as your competitor. This avoids clicks that are already users of your competitor, making it less expensive to advertise in this way.

  • Add an extension to the shown url to make it show www.yourpage.com/competitor-alternative.

Adding this does something very simple. It lowers your cost-per-click by making your ad more relevant, thus improving the quality score of it.

  • If the competitor is big enough and competition is fierce, build a dedicated landing page for that competitor.

Building a landing page provides Google with signals that the page has content on it that matches the ad. This is one of the indicators of quality score, so it would lower your cost-per-click as well.

  • Experiment with your advertising bids.

You never really know the big of your opponent for sure, until you experiment with how much you should be bidding. Keep in mind that you need to make profits and not just steal away customers. One interesting research-tool you could use to track how your competitors are advertising and performing is SpyFu.

3. Include free learning tools to boost the adoption rate

Potential impact

Effort

If you have ever looked at the tools of Hubspot, you could get overwhelmed easily. Being one of the largest and most complicated interaction-based CRM’s, they offer a variety of tools you could use to build better pages and e-mails, as well as offering various other CRM-features. Similar systems could include Salesforce, which has so many features they spend a lot of time educating their users about their product.

The way Hubspot fixed this, is by adding the HubSpot Academy. The courses listed here are designed to bring their users to the level, where they are able to make proper use of the HubSpot suite. Even though people learning is not their direct revenue-model, this delivers value. In fact, HubSpot at this moment claims to have trained over 165.000 professionals in their academy.

This feature has some major benefits for them, which is not just about teaching people to use the product. By adding these extensive training programs, they are boosting the adoption rate of the product, improve their retention because people truly understand what the product does and brand themselves as a thought leader in the space of CRM, E-mail and content. Because of the extensive impact on different areas you could have this tactic is very valuable. Setting up a learning base takes some time, but you could always start small before going big.

4. Message your users through real names (or pseudo-names)

Potential impact

Effort

When interacting with a SaaS product it often happens that people get alienated from the company behind the software. In order for it to become more than just another tool it is important (and very easy) to link a real (or fake) person to your messaging. The best example of this for me is Taco from Trello.

Trello is a project management system that allows you to build your own workflow-boards in your own way, pretty handy if you’re working on a big project. Anyway, Taco from Trello has sent me so many messages over the years that I link the two names directly to each other.

It just feels so much better to get emails from an actual person.

– or at least have it look like it -. If you don’t feel like adding a mascot in the form of some Mexican food or any other random objects, you could also link it to a real person in your organization. This could be the head of product, head of growth or Dr. Jan Itor. In short, very easy to add, impact is good enough to be worth those 30 minutes spent editing e-mail. Most e-mail & marketing automation platforms allow you to do this. Sendinblue, ActiveCampaign, Mailchimp and Intercom all have this feature.

5. The Classic: Set up a referral program (highest potential)

Potential impact

Effort

The highest potential growth tactic of all, the referral program. The tactic that pretty much everyone has ever heard of and probably the one at the very core of growth hacking basics. These types of programs can often cause very large numbers to appear on your signups-dashboard, if set up correctly.

For those who have not heard much about referral programs before, the core of this tactic is to have your user sign up new users for you. How does this work? Well, there are three examples that are also the most commonly used examples of growth hacks. The first one being Hotmail. When in the 90’s free e-mail providers were becoming a thing, one of them stood out.

Hotmail made sure the signature at the bottom of the e-mail would bring new users to them. So, every time someone received an e-mail from a Hotmail-based address, it included a call to action and link to sign up to Hotmail for free as well.

Another example of the early days of growth hacking would be PayPal giving away free money (?!?). PayPal offered their customers free money to sign up at that time, which would cost PayPal $20, -. This (in combination with other tactics) skyrocketed the customer base of PayPal at the early stages of the company. Here’s an example of when they did it with $5,- some time later.

The final example here would be Dropbox. They ran a referral program, in which you could get 1 gigabyte of free storage if you referred friends (or others) to use Dropbox as well. Estimates of that program say that 60% of Dropbox users come through that referral program.

If you’re looking to set up your own referral program keep this in mind: There needs to be a gain for both the referral as well as the new user, make sure you know your maximum customer acquisition cost, and you still need people to see that you have that referral program! One of the easiest tools to use for setting this up is Referral candy.

A side note, we rate this tactic as hard to do. Setting up a referral program is actually very easy, but creating one that differentiates itself from other programs is so much harder. If you want to build one you can use our free template for that, which you can find below.

Tools we love.

The referral canvas

The tool to set up your own referral program. An easy to print A4 PDF canvas.

The growth model template

A step by step guide to create data-driven marketing strategies to accelerate growth.

Download our guide

Soooo…. these are the most commonly used tactics that we feel every SaaS company should be actively using. Sometimes it becomes hard to track all your efforts that you’re making to growth. For that we have created a model that might help you out.

ps: If you read this and would like to discuss growth tactics for SaaS businesses you could also book a growth call with one of our growth architects. No strings attached!

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