Marketing & Survival Tactics for SaaS Businesses in the Time of Coronavirus: 11 SaaS Businesses Share Experience

The entire world has been shaken to its core because of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. People around the world are in lockdowns to curb the spread of the disease. The economy has been affected, and the IMF suspects that we will face one of the most crushing recessions the world has seen. We were curious to find out how SaaS businesses are working through this downturn – so we asked 11 SaaS businesses the following questions:

As a SAAS business owner, how are you navigating the Coronavirus downturn:
1. Is your business impacted? If yes, how?
2. What measures are you taking to work through this unprecedented situation?
3. What marketing you are employing at this time? (2-3 key activities you are running with at the moment)
4. Top 2 learnings from the crisis and advice to other SaaS businesses.

 

Top Marketing Strategy Tips for SaaS Businesses in the Time of Coronavirus – TL;DR

  1. Content Marketing is the top choice for SaaS businesses as the leading marketing tactic.
  2. Focus largely on supporting customers and audience through the tough times and building brand – not active selling.
  3. Webinars are getting a lot more traction than usual and is a great way to engage with your customers and followers.
  4. PPC is attractive right now – Google and Facebook ads can give you better returns than usual.
  5. Get involved in relevant online communities on Quora, Reddit, Facebook Groups and others – they can generate good quality leads.
  6. Social media outreach with empathy and useful content can help build brand and get attention.

 

Top Business Strategy Tips for SaaS Businesses in the Time of Coronavirus – TL;DR

  1. Support your team through the tough times – communicate and be empathetic.
  2. Be adaptable, and look for not-so-obvious opportunities and alternatives to business as usual.
  3. Make customer support top priority.
  4. Offer customers innovative solutions to see them them through the tough times.
  5. Stay away from debt if you can.
  6. Cut down on non-essential spend proactively.

 

Here’s what the 11 businesses had to say (lot’s of awesome advice below):

 

1. Brian Davis, Director of Education at SparkRental

1. Is your business impacted? If yes, how?

We’ve actually seen an uptick in sales, as more landlords and property managers start leaning on technology. But COVID-19 created a different sort of crisis for us.

We had been licensing another company’s software, with some custom modifications for our users. At the beginning of the year, we decided we wanted to build out our own custom software from scratch, and started working on it. Late last week, we got word from our licensed software provider letting us know that they’re going out of business entirely, and closing their doors next month. Our new software won’t be finished by then.

2. What measures are you taking to work through this unprecedented situation?

We’re obviously scrambling to figure out how to bridge the gap for our clients. Our current plan is to prioritize the software’s most important features and get an incomplete but functional version up next month. We’ll offer some extra incentives to our customers, and do what we can to keep them happy. But it’s definitely not how we envisioned the transition.

3. What marketing you are employing at this time? (2-3 key activities you are running with at the moment)

We’ve been creating purely informational and reassuring content, with no hard sales pitch. We mention and tie in our various features and partners where relevant, but we’re approaching this as an opportunity to build trust with our audience, and to expand that audience, rather than convert them.

For example, we held a free two-hour webinar two weeks ago about the impact of COVID-19 on real estate investors and landlords. We got the best response from it that we’ve ever had to a webinar. We’ve also pivoted our blog and live video content to address our audience’s greatest fears and questions.

4. Top 2 learnings from the crisis and advice to other SaaS businesses.

The pandemic has reaffirmed our commitment to diversified revenue sources, to low overhead, and to remaining debt-free.

Other areas of our business have suffered greatly, but we’ve been able to maintain all of our staff because we have so many revenue sources. We’ve cut most nonessential expenses, prioritizing our staff. And while we applied for an SBA loan that we can convert to a grant, we have no intention of taking on long-term debt.

 

2. Neil Andrew, Founder at PPCProtect

1. Is your business impacted? If yes, how?

Yes, we have been impacted. We work in the B2B space with companies who use digital advertising, and many companies have reduced their digital advertising budgets or cut them entirely. As such, this has had a knock-on effect on revenues through customers needing to pause their subscriptions.

2. What measures are you taking to work through this unprecedented situation?

We are fortunate that we have a significant war-chest to see us through this, and also that we are still cashflow positive/profitable even during this pandemic. We have created a robust business continuity plan with several action triggers based on current MRR. This means when a certain MRR level is reached, the continuity plan is placed in to action and previously specified costs can be quickly cut/reduced.

3. What marketing you are employing at this time? (2-3 key activities you are running with at the moment)

– Facebook Ads – The cost of Facebook ads has dropped significantly due to more inventory (as more people are using Facebook during the lockdown, hence more views). The CPA on these has been great for us.

– Google Ads – Google Ads CPCs in our industry have remained fairly constant, but we still continue to see good returns from them and continue to invest heavily

– Content marketing – With new business generation slowing, our marketing team are focusing on our long term content strategy to acquire future business.

4. Top 2 learnings from the crisis and advice to other SaaS businesses.

Be cashflow positive as soon as possible, and don’t rely too heavily on investor funds/debt. Being cashflow positive allows you to see out this entire pandemic fairly comfortably.

Have a solid business continuity plan in place before something like this happens again. Rather than spending weeks planning, you will know exactly what costs to turn on/off based on unfolding events and this will give you a huge edge over the competition.

 

3. Kean Graham, CEO at MonetizeMore

1. Is your business impacted? If yes, how?

MonetizeMore  has been impacted via lower RPM (Revenue per thousand impressions) performance because of lower ad spend but also higher traffic volume for our publisher partners. Both are countering effects on our revenues. Overall, our revenues are a bit lower than they would vs. if there was no pandemic.

2. What measures are you taking to work through this unprecedented situation?

We have stopped all in-person meetings till the end of this pandemic. We have been more proactive with our communications with our customers about business continuation and what to expect with market fluctuations. We plan on doing live stream events as well.

3. What marketing you are employing at this time? (2-3 key activities you are running with at the moment)

Genuinely Answer Questions: We answer ad optimization related questions on Google Product Forums, Quora, Twitter and Reddit. We have found that this enables positive interactivity with sub-communities, establishes us as authorities and drives many qualified leads.

Compelling Shareability: Come up with clever ways for your users to share your content or products. For example, within PubGuru Ad Inspector (PGAI), we’ve built sharing functionality so it’s easy for users to share the data that PGAI within forums when they’re trying to solve their ad inventory issues. This will help them resolve their problems quicker and will also show any users viewing that forum post the power of PGAI. All of a sudden, the PGAI users have become advocates in a very scalable way.

Strategic Partnerships: If your blog post is unique and useful enough, you can get other sites to refer their users to it. The typical way is via email outreach, however, this can be done via PR, going on podcasts or finding companies that have an audience that need the info that your blog provides. We have successfully setup partnership with companies like Google and WP Engine which have sent valuable traffic on a consistent basis.

4. Top 2 learnings from the crisis and advice to other SaaS businesses.

I’ve learned that it’s key as a leader to show compassion and empathy during a crisis. It’s important to show each team member that they’ll be taken care of by the company if needed. That peace of mind is a key factor for each team member to keep their minds in-track during times that it is difficult to do so. I’ve also learned about the importance of adaptability. It’s the most adaptable companies that survive crises and recessions not necessarily the biggest, most talented or most funded companies.

 

4. Kate Jones, Digital Marketing Manager at Synergist

1. Is your business impacted? If yes, how?

We work with project-based businesses of anywhere from 10 – 600 employees, so a lot of our customers are SME’s. It’s been well-documented that small and small-to-medium businesses are likely to be worst hit by this crisis. However, it’s not been that clear cut.

We work with lots of marketing and creative agencies and we’re finding that some of our customers are very busy because their clients are using this time to sort out their brand and/or website. Others are finding that work has been put on hold until more certain times.

So in truth, it’s too early to tell how this is going to impact our business. But it is certain that at a time like this, where work has been put on hold to potentially come back in spades, it’s more important than ever that businesses who predominantly sell their time are monitoring things closely. They need to come back in a strong position and know exactly what profits and losses they’ve suffered and where they have available time and how best to use it.

2. What measures are you taking to work through this unprecedented situation?

We’re supporting our customers as best we can. Morally, this is in-line with our company ethos but practically our business relies on the success of our customers, so supporting them and helping them thrive is our priority at any time, now more than ever. We’ve also kept our development and help desk services running at the same capacity. So the product won’t stand still and customer can get the same support they would at any other time.

3. What marketing you are employing at this time? (2-3 key activities you are running with at the moment)

We ran a series of webinars with our implementation partners, to help customers understand how they can use our product from a work from home environment. Other than these genuinely helpful pieces, we’re using this time to focus on our brand. So we’re looking at how we communicate our offering in the clearest way and how we improve our website content. We are not running any campaigns or trying in any way to generate new leads and we have paused all our digital advertising. It just doesn’t feel right at this time, if people are reading a news article for example, they should be left to it. I’ve personally been disappointed with how some consumer brands have quite blatantly used this crisis to sell products. It doesn’t sit comfortably with me at all.

4. Top 2 learnings from the crisis and advice to other SaaS businesses.

Honestly, I think it’s too early for learnings as sadly, we’re still very much in it. But my advice for what to do now we find ourselves in this situation is to think about how you can genuinely help. Any content or outreach activity at this time should be focused on that. If your SaaS business can genuinely help through this crisis, then shout about that as people are looking for solutions. But It’s really not the time to be aggressively selling. And support your existing customers. If you understand that your business relies on their business and you can really generate a sense of being in this together then it’s the only way you’ll both come out the other side in a strong position.

 

5. Charlène Guicheron, Founder and CEO at Kreezalid

 

1. Is your business impacted? If yes, how?

As a SaaS marketplace website builder, our clientele is based online. That’s why we haven’t been as impacted as many other businesses. And because our SaaS is built for new entrepreneurs, a downturn can even increase the number of people who sign up for our SaaS as people move from full-time jobs to entrepreneurship or want to find new income sources. But we’re not taking this for granted and we’re taking measures to protect our business. Plus, many of our users are impacted as their marketplaces are in the travel or services niches.

2. What measures are you taking to work through this unprecedented situation?

We are doubling down on our marketing efforts to ensure that people hear about Kreezalid. We’re also monitoring our user needs to ensure that we stay relevant for them throughout the crisis. If we can help our small business users succeed, we’ll want to know how we can offer them our support. Additionally, we recently launched a program that lets people use Kreezalid for free if they use it to help people affected by coronavirus (health care workers, small businesses, and more).

3. What marketing you are employing at this time? (2-3 key activities you are running with at the moment)

We are:

– Educating our existing users on how to navigate the crisis. Some of our users are affected by the crisis and we want to be there to support them. We do this with our emails and content, like blog posts. Our users can also use our customer support.

– Continuing to heavily focus on organic growth, like search engine optimization. By getting competitive in search, we will ultimately come out stronger after the crisis. This way, we don’t have to spend on ads to get more users, but can instead use this money to improve our product and marketing.

– Improving our onboarding and continuing to gather user feedback. Now more than ever, we’ll want to know why our users choose us!

4. Top 2 learnings from the crisis and advice to other SaaS businesses.

Our biggest learnings so far have been:

– Prepare for crises like these! It might not be coronavirus the next time, but downturns have always affected the economy. As a SaaS, it’s important to have cash in the bank, steady organic growth (so that you keep on getting leads even if you have to cut down on ad spend and other paid marketing strategies) and to think agile. Yes, changes happen. But how can you adapt? That’s what will ultimately determine how you get through this and other crises.

– Relentlessly focus on your users and customers. In situations like these, customers might need to cut back on expenses, like SaaS subscriptions. So how can you make yourself irreplaceable? How can you ensure that your customers succeed (and continue using your platform)?

 

6. Jesse Schoberg, Co-Founder at DropInBlog

1. Is your business impacted? If yes, how?

Fortunately for us we’re seeing an upturn. It seems lots of people are focusing on their online businesses and marketing efforts. This is a great time to double-down on content marketing.

2. What measures are you taking to work through this unprecedented situation?

We’re a remote company so everyone is already working from home. Our main goal is to make sure everyone is safe. After that, it’s business as usual. If anything our team is getting more focused which has been an unexpected side effect.

3. What marketing you are employing at this time? (2-3 key activities you are running with at the moment)

– We’re also pushing hard on our content marketing plan.

– We’ve taking this time to really clean up our social presence and calendar.

– We’re also very product-led so we’re working on our UI, our onboarding, and making sure our product is in tip top shape as our growth comes.

4. Top 2 learnings from the crisis and advice to other SaaS businesses.

Run lean. If anything, this time will teach you where the fat in your business is.

Black swan events can occur. Stay agile, prepare to pivot if needed.

 

7. Aaron Burcell, CEO at MeThinks

 

1. Is your business impacted? If yes, how?

Yes, we have an increased amount of interest because we provide customer insights, remotely, less-expensively. COVID-19 shut down usability labs, live panel research, so this should be a booming time for us – qualitative research is an $85bn/year market, bigger than coffee or cloud computing. However, getting projects approved and committed has been challenging because business managers are having trouble getting anything through their internal financial controls.

Candidly, customers are asking if they can proceed with projects without contracts finished because they need customer validation of product changes and additions, but their internal legal and finance resources are unresponsive or too busy going through existing contracts in cost-saving mode. So, our funnel has grown quite bulbous at the top.

Where contracts are complete and the work is waiting to start, business managers are telling us that controllers aren’t sure what business expenses in R&D are critical anymore. Business managers are relaying a general sense of fear and frustration at the delays — these people know that the opportunity cost is high, and delivery schedules will be disrupted, creating a ripple effect from the slowing in budget and contract approvals.

2. What measures are you taking to work through this unprecedented situation?

We created more simplified pricing and updated our self serve product, so that business managers can literally pay-as-they-go. The bolder customers from large businesses know the budgets are there, and rather than wait in line for approvals of the overall project, they’re breaking down their projects into purchases and micro-research interviews, and paying with a credit card. That’s creating a sales source and attribution challenge for us, but it’d be rude to complain.

3. What marketing you are employing at this time? (2-3 key activities you are running with at the moment)

We doubled down in content marketing and LinkedIn, spun up telesales. Anything where we can talk with our customers – strong relationships are built on learning and shared experiences. Right now, our customers need to talk through things, sometimes, they need a bit of a cry. The emotional load of our customer relationship is high right now, but I think it’s cathartic for everyone – our customers are primarily in NY, Silicon Valley, Korea and Japan, everyone we talk with knows someone that is ill or passed. I’m a hands on CEO, and I work closely with our sales teams – the days are long, leaving everyone emotionally raw, the nights are sleepless.

4. Top 2 learnings from the crisis and advice to other SaaS businesses.

I wrote a LinkedIn post warning my marketing colleagues that blasting out emails and social posts about Covid-19 as clickbait would be something they regretted – that post got a tremendous response. And, I learned from our methinks Thinker poll that people’s friends and family really are top of their concerns. That felt good.

 

8. Yan Gilbert, Chief Product Officer at dbaPlatform

1. Is your business impacted? If yes, how?

Like every business, our SaaS business is impacted. To some degree we have lost contracts as businesses close and cost-cut, but our very niche software supports local businesses in managing their Google My Business (GMB) listings. The brands and franchises we serve have all been affected and have GMB listing changes, but Google, itself, has been slowed by the pandemic and has made changes to its features often in the last month too, thereby tripling our workload under the same subscription revenue.

2. What measures are you taking to work through this unprecedented situation?

We’ve had to stop on a dime to re-message subscriber marketing and to teach our business customers to use Google as a communication tool to reach their consumers about COVID-19 operational changes.

3. What marketing you are employing at this time? (2-3 key activities you are running with at the moment)

We have run extra webinars related to using Google as a newsfeed during the crisis to teach our community how to adapt. Like others in our space, we rolled out free services to give brands our GMB post tool to use during this time to communicate swiftly online about changes in hours and other operating information.

4. Top 2 learnings from the crisis and advice to other SaaS businesses.

We’ve learned a couple big lessons. One is simply disaster preparedness and having contingency plans for moving workers home and logistics like that. The second is that no one wants to see anyone hurt in a crisis. But whether your business is expanding or shrinking, there is hardship in both, and no one is “unaffected” – we really are in this together.

 

9. Chris Miles, CEO at Striven

1. Is your business impacted? If yes, how?

While this event hasn’t changed our long-term business strategy or negatively impacted our subscriber base, it has presented us with new opportunities to reach out and help others. Striven customers rely on our all-in-one business platform to help them with everything from small processes to mission-critical core operations. It’s now more important than ever for us to move quickly to support as many people as possible, both subscribers and non-subscribers, as they navigate this new environment and mitigate the impact on their businesses.

2. What measures are you taking to work through this unprecedented situation?

The need for businesses to maintain productivity, workforce, and cash flow is now more important than ever. In this climate, almost every process that facilitates those goals must be done online by remote teams. Striven team members are currently performing outreach to our customers and adding extra services, including remote team advising, operational change management coaching, and data migration help. We’re also offering these services to non-subscribers. Simply put, we’re part of the business community, and it’s our responsibility to help others stay up and running.

3. What marketing you are employing at this time? (2-3 key activities you are running with at the moment)

Our marketing efforts have always been more digital than event-based. In that sense, we haven’t had to pivot much. Like many other cloud-based SaaS businesses, we have shifted our messaging to emphasize how we help remote teams. We have also increased our online advertising presence via Google and third-party software sites. While we’re making more use of our social media channels, we’re not interested in adding to all the noise out there; instead, we aim to provide only valuable information in a timely manner.

4. Top 2 learnings from the crisis and advice to other SaaS businesses.

Though it may seem like now is the time to scale back your operations, the opposite is true. Your services may be needed now more than ever, and failing to “meet the moment” will leave you behind once this crisis subsides.

Find the balance between agile decision making and knee jerk reaction. Rely on your leaders to lead, and make sure your entire workforce understands the stakes of this time and is prepared to support your mission. It’s only through regular and clear communication that you’ll continue to make sound decisions and thrive as a company.

 

10. Neil Patwardhan, Founder and CEO at Cambio

1. Is your business impacted? If yes, how?

A majority of our customer base is HR and Talent Acquisition Leaders. Given the economic downturn, mass layoffs and other factors, HR tech
quickly become a distant 27th on their minds. This dramatically affected our sales pipeline.

2. What measures are you taking to work through this unprecedented situation?

We streamlined our operations; both founders took severe pay cuts to support our staff and we realigned our strategy to focus on verticals that are growing like grocery stores and eCommerce businesses.

3. What marketing you are employing at this time? (2-3 key activities you are running with at the moment)

We focus primarily on product value as it relates to current situation and environment. Because we are a matching engine, we have grassroots focus on job seeker outreach so that they can create their Cambio profile for free.

We also focus on webinars and thought leadership content for employers on why Cambio as the modern recruiting engine is better suited for their future HR needs than most internal HR tools.

4. Top 2 learnings from the crisis and advice to other SaaS businesses.

It’s difficult to predict an unprecedented crisis such as this. That being said, here are my 2 learnings:
1. Run lean in general with or without a crisis. Since we didn’t have a lot of costs, we were lucky to streamline quickly and continue to operate.
2. Read the market and innovate quickly.

 

11. Desmond Lim, CEO and Co-Founder at Workstream

 

1. Is your business impacted? If yes, how?

Workstream, like most other businesses, has been impacted by COVID-19, but we’re doing our best to help with the resources we have available. Workstream’s mission is to simplify the hiring process for employers hiring hourly workers, and right now, hourly workers are losing their jobs and finding themselves at risk for the virus. While Workstream is being impacted by the economy on pause, we recognize that this virus is much larger than us, and our focus is to be part of the solution.

2. What measures are you taking to work through this unprecedented situation?

Our solution has been to offer our services to all essential businesses that have an immediate hiring need– for free. We’re also offering to help businesses that had to close locations, and need help restaffing when things return to normal at no charge.

3. What marketing you are employing at this time? (2-3 key activities you are running with at the moment)

Workstream has pivoted it’s marketing to focus almost exclusively on how we’re available to help essential businesses. Our goal is to be transparent and to emphasize that our priority right now is to contribute. Aside from offering our services for free, we’re also working on compiling all of the resources that are available to businesses and employees right now.

4. Top 2 learnings from the crisis and advice to other SaaS businesses.

If Coronavirus has taught the world anything, it’s that remote work is becoming increasingly important for the future of businesses. My advice to other SAAS companies is to keep building tools that help people work more effectively as a team when they’re remote.

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