Once your SaaS product is ready to enter the market, you may ask yourself: what do I do first? Do I need a SaaS technical writer? How do I get eyeballs on my product or get customers to buy it?

We’ve already talked about SaaS marketing strategies to help you market your product to developers – but you must also consider the steps or touchpoints a developer goes through, from the moment they become aware of your product to when they actually make a purchase; i.e., your SaaS marketing funnel.

Always remember the goal of your funnel: generate leads, nurture them, and convert them into paying customers.

Here’s how you can do that:

What is a SaaS marketing funnel?

A SaaS marketing funnel illustrates the different stages of the developer journey, from awareness to advocacy, for a SaaS product.

It guides you as you build and employ marketing strategies and tactics that target developers, and includes activities like content creation, email marketing, and advertising.

This funnel can sometimes be confused with a SaaS sales funnel, but the latter focuses on the process of closing a sale and converting a lead into a paying customer, and consists of different stages (like lead qualification, product demos, and proposal).

What is SaaS marketing? | Guide | Developer Marketing Alliance
With so many SaaS companies in the market, you may find it challenging to attract new customers, reach your target audience, boost your brand awareness, and drive sales. This is where SaaS marketing comes in.

Stages of a SaaS marketing funnel

Typically, you’ll need to consider these stages when building your funnel:

1. Awareness

This is when potential customers become aware of your SaaS product through different marketing channels, such as social media (LinkedIn, Twitter, etc.), content marketing (blogs and videos, for example), or paid advertising.

📌 Examples of things you can do in this stage:

  • Run targeted ads that showcase the benefits of your SaaS product to potential customers.
  • Optimize your website for search engines.
  • Host webinars or live events that introduce your product to developers.

📈 Metrics you should track:

  • Website traffic: the number of people who land on your site.
  • Impressions: the number of times your ads are displayed on various platforms.
  • Social media engagement: the number of likes, comments, shares, and followers on your social channels.

2. Interest

Once a developer becomes aware of your SaaS product, they may express interest by visiting your site, reading your blog, or downloading a lead magnet.

📌 Examples of things you can do in this stage:

  • Offer a free trial of your SaaS product to potential customers.
  • Create a demo video that showcases your product’s features.
  • Provide case studies or testimonials that show the value of your product.

📈 Metrics you should track:

  • Email click-through rates: the percentage of people who click on links within your email campaigns.
  • Trial sign-ups: the number of people who sign up for a free trial of your product/service.
  • Form completions: the number of people who fill out a form to access a resource or attend an event, which indicates interest in your product or service.

3. Consideration

This is when developers are considering your SaaS product above others, evaluating whether it can solve their problems and pain points, as well as meet their needs.

📌 Examples of things you can do in this stage:

  • Send follow-up emails to potential customers who have signed up for a free trial, offering additional resources or support.
  • Provide a personalized demo of your product to developers.
  • Offer a comparison chart that shows how your product stacks up against competitors’.

📈 Metrics you should track:

  • Demo requests: the number of people who request a demo or trial of your product.
  • Time to conversion: the amount of time it takes for a prospect to move from the interest stage to the conversion stage, which can help you identify potential roadblocks or opportunities for optimization.
  • Pricing page views: the number of people who view your pricing page, which indicates that they’re considering your product and evaluating its value.

4. Conversion/purchase

If a developer chooses to buy your SaaS product, they move to the conversion/purchase stage, where they buy a subscription.

📌 Examples of things you can do in this stage:

  • Offer flexible pricing plans that meet the needs and budgets of different developers.
  • Provide a secure checkout process that accepts multiple payment methods.
  • Offer a discount or promotion to encourage potential customers to make a purchase.

📈 Metrics you should track:

  • Customer acquisition cost: the cost of acquiring a new customer, which is important to track in order to ensure that your marketing efforts are cost-effective.
  • Conversion rate: the percentage of leads who convert into paying customers, which measures the effectiveness of your sales and marketing efforts.
  • Monthly recurring revenue: the amount of recurring revenue generated by your SaaS product each month, which indicates the health of your business.

5. Retention

Once developers have bought your product, it’s important to focus on retaining them by providing excellent support, regular updates, and ongoing value.

📌 Examples of things you can do in this stage:

  • Send onboarding emails or technical tutorials to new customers to help them get started with your SaaS product.
  • Offer responsive customer support through email, chat, or phone.
  • Provide regular updates to new features that add value to your product.

📈 Metrics you should track:

  • Churn rate: the percentage of customers who cancel their subscription or do not renew.
  • Customer lifetime value: the amount of revenue generated by a single customer over the course of their relationship with your business, which indicates the long-term value of your customer base.
  • Net promoter score: the likelihood that a customer will recommend your product or service to others.

6. Advocacy

Happy customers may become advocates for your SaaS product, recommending it to others and leaving positive reviews and testimonials.

📌 Examples of things you can do in this stage:

  • Offer referral bonuses or discounts to customers who refer new people to your product.
  • Provide a platform for developers to share their experiences and reviews of your product, such as on social media.
  • Offer a loyalty program that rewards developers for continued use of your SaaS product.

📈 Metrics you should track:

  • Referral rate: the percentage of customers who refer your product or service to others, which measures the effectiveness of your referral program and overall customer satisfaction.
  • Customer reviews: the number and quality of customer reviews on third-party review sites like G2 or Trustpilot, which can influence the purchasing decisions of potential customers.
  • Social media mentions: the number of times your brand or product is mentioned on social media, which can help you measure the impact of your advocacy efforts and overall brand awareness.

The importance of developer advocates
Whether your target audience is engineers or software developers, advocates can help you get the word out about your product. Here, we answer your most commonly asked questions about developer advocacy, so take a look.

What about a B2B SaaS marketing funnel?

The same principles apply, as well as the same funnel stages. But, when talking about B2B, the target audience is other businesses – i.e., a B2B SaaS marketing funnel may focus more on building relationships with decision-makers and stakeholders within businesses.

Additionally, this model may prioritize lead generation and nurturing strategies over more traditional product marketing tactics.

Due to this, the B2B SaaS marketing funnel may include more specific stages, such as lead generation, lead qualification, sales and marketing alignment, contract negotiation and closing, implementation and onboarding, and retention and upsell.

How does a SaaS marketing funnel differ from a traditional marketing funnel?

An important distinction is that, in a SaaS marketing funnel, the conversion stage isn’t at the bottom of the funnel. A lot happens after people convert, as SaaS companies aim for customers to renew subscriptions and recommend the product to their peers.

There are other differences between the two models, including (but not limited to) the following:

  • Product: in a marketing funnel for SaaS, the focus is on selling a SaaS product or service that’s accessed through the cloud. A more traditional funnel may involve a physical product.
  • Sales process: the sales process in a SaaS marketing funnel may be more complex, as it can include things like free trials, demos, and subscription models, while a more traditional marketing funnel may be more straightforward.
  • Customer journey: the customer journey in a SaaS marketing funnel may be more digital and self-serve than in a traditional one, since it can involve online research, product demos, etc.
  • Retention: in a SaaS funnel, the focus is not only on acquiring new customers, but also on retaining them through ongoing value and support, which can be achieved through customer success programs, ongoing updates, etc. In a more traditional mode, the focus can be on one-time sales.
  • Metrics: the metrics you use to measure success in a SaaS marketing funnel may differ from the metrics in a more traditional one. For example, in a SaaS marketing funnel, metrics can include monthly recurring revenue and customer lifetime value, while traditional marketing funnels can focus on average order value instead.

13 SaaS marketing metrics to track in 2023
How can you know whether developers are engaging with your product? And if they aren’t, what can be improved? Fortunately, you can answer these and other similar questions with SaaS marketing metrics.

What to consider when building a SaaS marketing funnel

Building a successful marketing funnel for SaaS is crucial, but how can you go about it? What are the steps you can focus on to boost your chances of success? Here’s what to consider:

Define your target audience

You’ll find this is often the first step before you do anything else, and for good reason. Identifying your ideal developer personas, including their pain points, interests, and behaviors, can help you create tailored messaging that resonates with developers.

This includes writing a value proposition or a positioning statement for your product. Every developer is different and has different goals and needs, so it’s crucial you define this early on!

“The developer isn’t some unicorn, hard-to-figure-out persona. For all the promises that sales or marketing may make, developers end up building and delivering customer value. Apps must help users realize their goals, and provide an easy, secure, and consistent experience. Achieving all of that is hard work.
“Developers have to deliver working code under realistic timelines, all along as the footprint of their own job expands from writing code to instrumenting for security, monitoring, etc.
“No wonder developers are a skeptical bunch. In order to truly connect with developers, building trust and helping developers learn are the two key principles. Forget every other marketing instinct you have.” – Aditya Tripathi, Principal Product Marketing Manager at Elastic

Understand the developer journey

A SaaS marketing funnel may have several stages but that doesn’t mean a potential customer will go through each one of them in a linear fashion.

It’s important you understand how your personas go through the journey, from first becoming aware of your product, to interacting with your brand, requesting a demo, and converting.

So, you must keep in mind that developers may not engage with everything or may ‘skip’ steps of the funnel before making a decision – and you should always monitor and analyze your audience’s behavior, use data to inform next steps, and more.

“What is the developer journey to me? It’s comprehensive of the persona, the intention, and the steps somebody takes to accomplish the task.
“One thing that's important in my definition is a single developer, meaning a person (i.e., Chris Riley), could be on different journeys at different times. So, one point I might be on the journey of just discovering your product, that's one journey. I'm gonna do that in a fairly specific way.
“Another example is, I might know about your product, but I want to get started. That's a different journey, but it's still me. It's still Chris Riley. And yet another example is, I’m very familiar with one aspect of your product, but I need to get familiar with other aspects of your product. That's also different.
“Now, here's the twist. The fourth one, despite being the same person, is starting over with something new, like a new feature. They actually go back into what I would call the onboarding journey. So, they've been working with you forever, but they're doing something new.
“Journey doesn't necessarily mean person and, in my opinion, is comprehensive of persona, intent (what they want to do), and what they're building their use case for.” – Chris Riley, Sr. Manager, Developer Relations at Hubspot

Create your content strategy

Content is still king – in fact, in our State of Developer Marketing, we found that one of the main responsibilities of developer marketers was to create content (46.6%). So, it’s vital that you create valuable content that addresses the needs and concerns of your audience and helps them move through the funnel.

Also ensure your content is optimized, which can include: keyword research, metadata (from URLs to title tags), internal linking, and calls-to-action.

“[Developers] value content that is informative, practical, and relevant to their work. This is why content marketing and thought leadership-style advertising campaigns tend to be highly effective in reaching developers. By creating and sharing valuable resources, businesses can build trust and credibility with their target audience and establish themselves as thought leaders in the industry.
“Developers are highly discerning, and they are only interested in content that is relevant, informative, and useful. They are often more likely to engage with content that provides practical tips, tools, and resources that they can use to improve their skills, and they are less likely to engage with content that is simply trying to sell them a product.” – Sachin Jha, Senior Technical Product Marketing Manager at Isovalent, on ‘How to advertise to developers in the right way

Nurture leads

Use automated lead nurturing tactics, such as email marketing and retargeting, so you can engage leads and move them closer to a purchase decision.

Nurturing leads is important because it helps you to build trust and credibility with your potential customers, keeps your brand in developers’ minds, shortens the sales cycle, boosts conversion rates, and increases the lifetime value of your customers.

“Developing a system to track inbound leads is essential for understanding which marketing campaigns are driving results. You should create unique tracking links for each campaign and use these links on all your promotional materials. This will allow you to see how many leads are coming from each campaign and track conversions.
“Tracking the sales cycle is another way to measure the success of your marketing efforts with software developers. It would help if you tracked how long it takes for a lead to become a customer and looked for ways to shorten the cycle. You can also track customer lifetime value to see how your marketing efforts impact long-term revenue.” Sachin Jha, Senior Technical Product Marketing Manager at Isovalent, on ‘From gunpoint to collaboration: Rethinking developer marketing

Deliver a great developer experience

Developer experience (DX) refers to the overall experience that a developer has when working with a particular product, like an API, SDK, or SaaS product, and has several touchpoints. You want to keep DX in mind because it helps you determine whether it’s easy and efficient for a developer to use a particular product and how well it meets their needs and expectations.

To ensure good DX, you must understand your developer audience, the journey they’re on (and which stage), and their pain points, blockers, needs, motivations, etc. Without this, it’d be impossible to provide a tailored experience.

Developer experience influences every stage of the SaaS marketing funnel, so make sure you’re providing a great one. This can mean anything from making sure your product is easy to use to providing ongoing support, as well as ensuring your product can be integrated with other apps and systems.

“I’ve had a lot of debates about what developer experience is. I’m guilty (and I don't think this is true) of associating developer experience purely with the portal site, whatever you want to call it, where developers get access to your world. So, it's the entry point where developers go, and where they do their work with your product.
“But this could extend beyond the site. It could be your command line interface, which developer marketing probably doesn't have. It’s for sure your documentation, it could be events, it could be what happens at events.
“I've heard people use it in the context of a single event or program. I don't agree. I don’t think it's a single thing. I think when we use the words ‘developer experience’, what we're saying is that we want to do what's appropriate in our product to reduce friction and help developers be successful, build high quality solutions with us, or adopt our product in the team in the case of developer productivity tools.
“That's what I consider developer experience. In a way, it's similar to DevRel. It's kind of philosophical. So it's a driving force that touches many things.” – Chris Riley, Sr. Manager, Developer Relations at Hubspot

Focus on messaging and positioning

To ensure your SaaS marketing funnel takes your particular audience into consideration, tailor your messaging and position your product accordingly.

Without clear and concise messaging and positioning, your funnel won’t be relevant to your target audience and you won’t be able to generate awareness and interest, and developers may not consider your product.

“I think it's clear above all else, we have a tendency, especially for working on a product and just internally in general, to assume if people have heard about this function or this feature, that they understand the brand as a whole.
“And that's why empathy is such an important quality to have in a product marketer. Powerful messaging addresses the who, the why, the what, and the how. The why really is about helping them solve a problem, identifying what is, what your differentiators are, and the how being your features and functionalities.
“I play this really annoying game with my PMMs where I'll just ask, ‘So what?’ until we've really gotten to the core of the problem that we're solving. So they'll give a positioning statement or their primary messaging and I'll just ask, ‘so what?’, and they'll give me an answer. We really end up somewhere where we've got the meat of the problem, and the meat of the solution, which makes the messaging a lot easier.
“I think lastly, make sure that you understand that powerful messaging doesn't stay powerful forever. Your products are evolving, your competitors are evolving, and more importantly, your users are evolving. It's possible that you outgrow your messaging. I think it's important that you're always checking that it's still resonating with your audience, whether that's through A/B tests, user interviews, and performance metrics.” – Ashley Wood, Head Of Product Marketing at LANDR Audio Inc., on ‘The secrets of compelling messaging and effective product positioning

Ensure great post-purchase experience

Another important thing to consider is the experience developers have once they’ve bought your SaaS product. If you don’t provide a good one, your customers may unsubscribe or downgrade their product tier, for example.

Providing a fantastic post-purchase experience can also boost your chances of getting developer advocates. After all, happy customers are more likely to share and recommend your product.

Developers have a seat at the table when it comes to tech-buying decisions, so don’t miss out on this opportunity!

“Developers are becoming increasingly influential. There are two angles to this statement: developers as decision makers and developers as influencers with knowledge. In today's software industry, developers are increasingly becoming the key decision-makers. They have a strong influence on software and stack decisions within their organizations.
“It’s important to understand that they’re not only the decision-makers but also initiators of most software purchases. Based on their needs, knowledge, and experience, they select the best stack to ensure performance. Wrong decisions, lack of budget for tools, or C-level interference in the software selection process can cost companies millions of dollars.
“Developers want to be able to use, build, try, and test the product before they commit to paying for your subscription or tool. They want to have the freedom to explore and test the product before engaging with a sales team (and they would rather delegate the purchase process to someone else, once the decision is made).
“That's why it's crucial to provide a playground, trial, or freemium option to potential customers. The fewer restrictions, the better (as long as it is profitable for you). This allows developers to test the full potential of the product for some time, which, in turn, helps build trust in the product. In the developer world, trust in your product = paying customers. No gimmicks, no marketing tricks, just trust and value. – Sara Waszyńska, Product Lead at Advocu

In short

Building a SaaS marketing funnel is crucial, since it helps you understand where a potential or existing customer is on their user/buyer journey. This can lead to higher customer acquisition rates and conversions.

Typically, SaaS marketing funnels have six stages: awareness, interest, consideration, conversion or purchase, retention, and advocacy, so consider how you can make the most of your developer marketing strategies to ensure you’re targeting the right audience at the right time.

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