The dummy's guide to software marketing in 2020
Software marketing 101
Regardless of the amount or hours you spent in its creation, or how effectively your software solution resolves a certain issue, if nobody knows about it, it will not sell.
If you have no experience in marketing, the prospect of achieving an impressive user base as a result of a successful marketing campaign can be a very daunting thought.
If you filter out all the jargon and inflated instruction on Youtube, the entire marketing process can be broken down to these two core tasks:
Build a landing page with all the information about your software.
Drive traffic to that landing page.
Doesn't seem so unattainable anymore does it?
In this post we will run through the following:
How to design a landing page for your software that’s optimised for conversions.
How to drive traffic to this landing page.
How to use video to supercharge your marketing efforts.
Secret growth hacking formulas to help you gain a high number of users in as short amount of time as possible!
It’s going to be a wild ride, so strap yourself in and hold on!
Change your mindset
This post will be predicated on the following assumptions:
You have identified your target audience and developed a solution that solves their pain points.
Your software is already developed.
Your software has been beta-tested and all the bugs have been fixed.
If your software solution meets all of the above criteria, you're in a position to start marketing it.
But before you pop the cap off your whiteboard marker and start brainstorming, it's imperative for you to change your mindset.
If you start planning your software marketing strategy with the wrong mindset, you're destined to fail.
What is the right mindset?
Think of yourself as the authoritative solution for your customers.
Print that out and stick it on your office wall.
You need to completely own the solution ... become known as THE solution your customers are seeking.
When you adopt this mindset, all of your marketing efforts will reflect this identity and therefore, naturally be very compelling.
Landing pages: Why you need them
You need a place to send prospective clients in order to educate them about your software solution.
Creating a landing page is the most important milestone in your software marketing journey. It’s the gateway to your software.
Because it's so important, were going to spend quite a bit of time discussing its effective creation.
To better understand the role of your landing page, let’s take a step back and examine the different stages of a typical customer’s purchase journey.
There are different variations of these stages and their respective definitions floating around the internet, but the one below is one of the most concise and accurate.
Figure 1: Customer Conversion Journey - keymediasolutions.com
Let’s go over each of these stages.
The awareness stage is when a customer becomes aware of their problems and their need for a solution.
It's important to understand that a customer never commences this journey without the end goal of “taking action” in mind.
In other words, no prospect will step onto the awareness platform if they are not willing to keep walking and take some sort of action that will resolve their issues.
So everyone who becomes aware of their problems is a potential customer yours!
That’s pretty powerful.
What this means is that, with the right marketing strategy, any piece of software you create has the potential of being a success.
At the discovery stage, prospects discovers a possible solution.
This could either be via an advertising campaign or word of mouth (the holy grail of all marketing efforts!).
After a customer has discovered a solution, they will either be interested in it or not.
During this stage you need to implement some clever marketing tactics to convince prospects to take action.
This is the end of the line.
Also known as the point of conversion, at this final phase a lead takes your desired course of action.
The purpose of the landing page, therefore, is to guide a lead from the discovery stage, straight through to action.
In order to achieve this, a landing page must meet the following criteria:
Identify what your software solution is.
Identify how your software solution solves the pain points of your prospective customers.
Identify your value proposition.
Prompt leads to take action (convert).
In order for you to meet all of the above criteria, you need to optimize both the design and the content of your landing page.
Let’s start by discussing how to perfectly design your landing page.
Anatomy of an effective landing page
The design of landing pages has dramatically changed over the years.
Just take a look at what landing pages used to look like back in 2003:
Figure 2: Landing Page Design from 2003 - omniconvert.com
Looks less like sales copy and more like programming code!
Take a look at what call to action buttons looked like back then:
Figure 3: CTA buttons in 2003 - omniconvert.com
The e-Commerce in those days was still a novel venture so it was much less saturated than it is now.
Coming across a landing page was a very new concept, so it wasn't that difficult to convince a lead to convert, even if it was only due to curiosity.
As a result, there was less of a need to use graphical elements as a means of psychologically manipulating a lead into converting.
During the 16 years that followed, marketing tactics adapted to accommodate an audience that has grown accustomed to a fast paced and technologically saturated world.
Take a look at what an effective landing page looks like today:
Figure 4: Effective landing page design - zola.com
Let’s break down some of the effective features of a modern landing page design.
Use of color!
Unlike the landing page from 2003, this one actually uses color!
The motivation behind using colors is to make the page as aesthetically pleasing as possible.
A perfectly designed landing page is nice to just look at, not just nice to read.
Use of graphics
Modern landing pages always incorporate graphics.
The saying “A Picture Is Worth A Thousand Words” is especially relevant to landing pages. If you can replace blocks of text with a graphical summary you should!
Not only do graphics help break up the monotony of text, they also make your content much more memorable.
Graphics, however, are not always the best illustrative method for landing pages; some solutions (such as software) often require a deeper level of explanation.
In these instances it is best to also include video explanations of your solution (more on that later).
A particularly powerful graphical placement strategy is to implement a “hero image” in your landing page design.
A hero image is located at the very top of the page, as pictured below:
Figure 5: Header Image - balsamiq.com
A hero image usually contains the following.
A very short textual summary of your solution.
A relevant photo or video.
Call to action button.
The hero image on the landing page in figure 4 contains all of these elements:
Solution summary - A user-friendly wedding registry.
A relevant photo or video - Wedding cake and examples of wedding gifts.
Call to action button - Sign up to the registry.
The most effective hero images are concise and to the point, so no clutter.
Because they have such prominence at the top of the page, hero images are very good at intriguing readers and coercing them to keep reading the landing page to learn more.
Information is segmented
Rather than having the text squished together in one ugly block, landing pages now segregated information into bite sized sections.
Not only that, but there is also plenty of space between each section.
This makes the information much easier to process and much simpler to navigate through.
There is no question that the landing page in figure 4 should be read from top to bottom.
One call to action.
If you take a close look at the archaic landing page in figure 3, you will notice multiple confusing calls to action along the right side of the page.
There are far too many add to cart buttons that are ambiguously placed on the page. It's hard to understand exactly what the creator of this page wants visitors to do.
The modern landing page in figure 4, however, only has one call to action: Sign Up.
Even though there are three buttons on the page, they each lead to the same action.
Modern landing pages contain customer testimonials for maximum effect, and for good reason.
Just take a look at these compelling customer review stats:
72% of customers don't convert until they have read reviews.
92% of B2B leads do not convert until they have read reviews.
Attaining customer reviews should be pretty simple.
You could contact users that have beta tested your software or current customers that are signed up to your platform.
For maximum effect include a picture of the reviewer as well as their job title and/or workplace, especially if they are either a prominent industry figure or work for a prestigious organization.
Do not, under any circumstances ever post a fake customer testimonial. It will always backfire at some point in time.
Landing pages are SUPER important. They are the gateway to your software.
Separate information into different segments. Leave plenty of space in between each segment and avoid clutter!
Use graphics and videos. Hero images are really effective.
Include customer testimonials.
Now that we have covered the essential design criteria of your landing page, let's shift our focus on its actual content creation
Using video to market your software
When visitors come across your landing page, you only have a few seconds to convince them to stay.
On average people spend about 15 seconds on a landing page. If, however, you can convince them to stay for longer they will.
A great method of convincing visitors to spend more time on your landing page is by including a video.
As mentioned earlier, software solutions are highly likely to require an explainer video because the solution is usually too difficult to effectively explain with text and graphics alone.
Even if your software solution is as simple as pie, it’s never a bad idea to include a video in your landing page.
According to Optinmonster video marketers achieve 66% more qualified leads every year.
The great thing about creating video content is that its application is not only limited to your landing page, you could also post your video content on your website, use it for ad campaigns etc.
But what types of videos should you create?
Start at a high level by creating a video that summarises what your solution does and why it is needed. Think of this video as your "elevator pitch."
This style of video is known as an "explainer video."
You can either hire a video production company to record an explainer video for you, or, if you’re on a conservatie budget, you could use explainer video creation software.
Explainer video software platforms are pretty intuitive to navigate, videos are created using a drag and drop interface
It does, however, take quite a bit of time to create these videos, so if you’re on a tight schedule consider hiring a freelancer to do it for you.
Here are three explainer video software creation options:
Below is a simple template to follow when creating your explainer videos to ensure that they have maximum impact.
Keep it less than 2 minutes
Your entire explainer video should not be more than 2 minutes in length maximum. The shorter the better.
Remember that a visitor spends an average of 15 seconds on a landing page, so aim to summarize your value proposition within the first 15 seconds of your video.
Tell a story
Most explainer videos are centered around a particular character that is experiencing the same pain points as the target audience.
As the video progresses, you would demonstrate how your software solution alleviates the pain points of the protagonist.
Stories are engaging, relatable and memorable. You are highly likely to rope a visitor in to learn more about your offering if you start by telling them a story.
For maximum impact, if possible, try to incorporate humor, the most effective marketing efforts entertain the audience as well as informs.
Here is an example of story style exampiner video done really well (it’s longer than 2 minutes but incredibly entertaining):
Placement of your explainer video
Your explainer video should be a prominent feature on your landing page, it should be the first thing visitors see when they reach your landing page.
A great place to embed your explainer video is inside your hero banner.
Here is an example of such a landing page structure by autopilot:
For great results, make sure the cover image of your explainer video contains the play button, it makes clicking on your video almost irresistible!
Demo videos via webinar
Demo videos examine your software at a deeper level compared to an explainer video. They are a complete, end-to-end walk through your solution.
Pricey software solutions almost always require more convincing than cheap and simple software.
Demo videos can either be pre-recorded or presented live via a webinar.
Depending on the complexity of your solution, a call to action you might choose to implement on your landing page is for leads to sign up to a free webinar demonstration of your software.
The word “free” on a landing page has a significant psychological impact on leads, compelling them to take your desired call to action (we’ll give speak more about sales copy tactics further along this post).
Webinars are also great conversion channels because there is no pressure to make a purchase on a landing page.
In order to host a webinar demonstration, you will need to use software that is capable of capturing what is happening on your computer screen while allowing you to verbally communicate with your webinar attendees.
Here are some options:
For instructions on how to use the screen sharing option click here
The GoToMeeting platform offers HD video conferencing which will give your demonstrations a prestigious feel.
Writing sales copy
While a lesson in writing sales copy is extremely comprehensive and more suitable for a blog post series, we’ve outlined some bite-sized tips below to help you curate your landing page.
To keep things as simple yet effective, as possible, the content of your landing page should be comprised of the following 4 elements:
Benefits of onboarding your offer.
Call to action (sign up, book demo etc).
For maximum effect, include a question in your headline.
Questions are great at attracting attention, especially if they are laser focused on a particular pain point.
Aim at formulating your question in such a way that it reflects the potential value of your offering
For example, instead of asking
“Do you have enough leads?”
“Are you sourcing your leads from the wrong channels?”
The latter question implies that you have the answer to the best channels to source leads from.
This section explains what your offering is.
Keep it light and enjoyable to read, so avoid the extensive use of jargon.
After watching your explainer video and reading your offering section, visitors should not have any questions about who you are and what your software does.
Benefits of onboarding your offering
Nobody will convert on your landing page if they do not perceive any benefit from you offering.
The most effective way of demonstrating potential value is by systematically outlining how your software solution mitigates each of the pain points of your customers.
Call to action: Converting your visitors
The final, and most important, aim of your sales copy is to convert visitors.
A conversion is the ideal action you would like the reader of your landing page to take.
That could be, signing up for a trial, booking a webinar demonstration subscribing to your software etc.
The conversion type you choose to implement on your landing page will depend upon which action aligns best with your business; financial goals.
It’s best to work alongside an accountant or CFO in order to map out a tangible financial plan for your software company.
A great resource to help you formulate your software financial plan can be found here.
Words have incredible power. With the right combination of words, you could convince someone to do almost anything.
When crafting sales copy, there are specific words you can implement that will make your sales pitch as convincing as possible.
Below are some highly potent words you should use to achieve as many conversions as possible:
“You” - Imagine you are writing directly to you ideal customer. This will make your content super personalised and make your reader feel like you are speaking to them directly.
“Free” - The word free is almost impossible to ignore. Who doesn’t like free things?
Use this potent word especially if your call to action is free - such as signing up to a webinar demonstration.
“Instantly” - If you are selling software, your ideal users are probably business people that are pressed for time.
Such people want instant answers and instant solutions.
Using the word “instantly” in your sales copy will convey the respect you have for the limited availability of your target audience.
“New” - A new solution to an old problem has the possibility of solving that problem better than its predecessors.
New solutions are intriguing and, therefore, prompt further investigation.
Besides words, graphics can also be strategically used to supercharge your call to action efforts.
Graphics can be strategically used to make your desired course of action as obvious as possible.
Here are some suggestions
Use arrows to point to the action you would like your leads to take.
Place your call to action inside a red box.
Take a look at some examples of the effective use of graphics to drive conversions:
Landing page for Sage Intacct:
Landing Page for Business 2 Community
Driving Traffic to Your Landing Page
Now that your landing page is created, it’s time to drive traffic to it,
There are several methods of directing traffic to your landing page.
Leveraging traffic from forums is a two step process
Step 1: Find the Perfect Question to Answer
Find a question that your solution has the answer to.
To find a question, in the search bar, search keywords that relate to your software solution.
Aim to be as concise as possible so avoid long tail searchers, they will not produce many results.
Your answers should be focused on two separate groups of people:
People that are seeking a solution to a problem that may or may not be software related.
People that are seeking a software solution.
If your software is related to email marketing, and you want to find questions pertaining to individuals in category 1, you would search for the following:
“How to email marketing”
People in category 1 are usually seeking a solution that is free of charge, a work around to solve a particular pain point they are experiencing.
You must tread softly when curating answers for these people - they are hungry for value!
People in category 2 are specifically looking for a software solution.
The following forum search query would related to individuals in category 2:
“Email marketing software”
These people don't mind if you push your software solution, as long as you provide a detailed reasons as to why your solution is the best. So don't just post a link to your landing page.
Step 2: Provide the best answer possible
Let’s assuming you are composing an answer to people in category 2.
Never push your software solution as an immediate answer, make sure you give as much free value first BEFORE mentioning your solution.
When you do mention your software, use it as a means of illustrating a point rather than making it the obvious motivation behind your answer.
Here’s an example:“...this is a lengthy process but very effective. There are much quicker solutions to this problem, our team in fact have recently developed one you can take a look at here…”
Forums like Quora are market driven, meaning that the visibility of your solution depends on how many ‘up votes’ it receives from users.
So focus on value, value and more value before including a link to your landing page.
If you want instant results, you will need to pay for traffic.
The great thing about Facebook ads is that you can laser target your audience to make sure you ad is only shown to those that are likely to be interested in your software.
When setting up your social media ad campaign, make sure you use video rather than just a photo.
You could use the explainer video you created for you landing page or have another one recorded specifically for this.
Videos achieve an incredibly high number of conversions when used in social media ad campaigns, in fact, almost 95% of marketers have gained a new customer via a video on social media.
Here is a great video outlining the entire end-to-end process of creating a laser targeted Facebook ad campaign:
When setting up a Facebook Ad campaign, it’s a great idea to implement what’s known as “retargeting campaigns”
These ads are specific to visitors that have interacted with your content but have not converted.
So if a visitor visits your landing page and then leaves without converting, they will see ads specifically tailored to them.
Here is an example of how e-commerce stores use retargeting ads.
Let’s say a visitor adds an item to a shopping cart but then abandons the website without purchasing anything,
With a retargeting ad campaign, that person could see an ad on Facebook containing a picture of the item they never ended up purchasing alongside the following title:“Still interested in this?”
Here is a video explaining how to set up a retargeting campaign on Facebook:
Secret growth hacking formulas for your software
There is no shortcut to success.
If you want to win in this highly competitive arena, you need to be prepared to put in the necessary hard work.
That being said, there are some growth hacking strategies you can implement in your marketing plan that will increase your chances of success.
We have outlined some of them below:
1. Encourage Landing Page Shares
You can get a whole bunch of free traffic flowing to your landing page if you encourage visitors to share it.
How do you achieve that?
Offer a discount to your software to whoever shares your landing page on social media.
You can use software such a clickmeter to track all shares.
2. Team up with other SaaS companies
A great way of achieving an influx users is by teaming up with other Saas companies.
This will only work if you partner with Saas solutions that cater to an audience that could also benefit from your software - just make sure they are not a competitor!
Also make sure your software solution compliments whatever other solution you partner with.
An example of a great partnership would be one between a lead generation solution and an email marketing solution.
It doesn't have to be limited to only 2 parties, you could team up with a group of Saas providers and offer a bundled discount.
3. Create Your Own Social Network.
What better way to establish yourself as an authority in your niche than by hosting your own social network.
Thanks to tools like Spoit.IM you can turn your website into a buzzing online community that discusses topics related to your industry.
You could encourage wholesome conversions by initiating topics that provide high value to your followers. This will also encourage your community to organically grow.
Speaking of organic growth, hosting such a network on your website will also boost your organic rank in Google as users continue to post discussions and answers to questions people are searching for.
If you choose to implement this growth hacking method you would need to allow time for your community to grow to a substantial point before introducing your software solution.
An effective software marketing strategy can be diluted down into two primary tasks:
Establish a single source of truth containing all the information about your software - Your landing Page
Drive traffic to your source of truth.
By following the marketing methods outlined in this post, you will dramatically increases the chances of your software solution being a success.