4 Budget-Friendly Strategies to Generate Leads for SaaS Startups


Believe it or not, ever since the dawn of entrepreneurship, businesses have needed leads to sell their products.

Shocker! Right?

Here's how the story goes: companies find a gap in the market, create a product/service to fulfill that gap, generate leads to get people to buy their products, convert them, and then keep on engaging with them.

This vicious cycle continues until the customer opts out of the product or service or the company runs out of business.

Sound familiar?

If you're here, it means that you are on the path to the neverending hamster wheel of finding new ways to generate leads for your Software as a Startup (SaaS) business.

In this article, we're covering how to generate leads for SaaS startups in a budget-friendly way. Because let's be real, if you're a startup, you ain't got money growing on trees.

Don't worry. We won't hit you with the same ole stickler, "cold call people and see if they're interested."

However, before you go on this journey, there are a few best practices you should note to learn how to retain leads.

These tips are important because we plan to follow the theme of budget-friendliness (context: it costs 6-7x more to acquire a lead than to retain them).

Are you ready to learn more?

Let's dive in.

Best practices to retain SaaS leads

1. Use the right customer onboarding software 

Once you convert a prospect, the next step is to make them feel welcome in your community and to ensure they have all they need to know about your product.

There are several ways to do this (e.g., through emails, in-app messages, community forums, product tours, etc.).

However, regardless of whichever strategy you opt for, you'll need customer onboarding software to make it all happen.

You can use solutions like Klavyio or HubSpot for emails. Still, if you wish to educate customers through interactive product tours or segmented in-app messages, Hopscotch is the way to go.

2. Stick to your USP(s) 

Chances are you have multiple direct and indirect competitors in the market. And you might have a product that matches their best features or is better.

But how do you make your product stand out in the middle of the competition? The simple answer — focus on your unique selling point (USP).

If you have multiple areas of advantage, use competitive battlecards to shortlist two to three. 

Example of a competitive battlecard

And once you have that down, create a tagline that revolves around the essence of your business.

If creativity isn't your strong suit, you can use tagline generators like CopyAI's to come up with a few options or hire a professional copywriter to do the heavy lifting.

While knowing your USP is important for generating leads, it's also just as important to stick to the same USP to retain customers.

Imagine if you chose a product because of low prices, and suddenly, they increase their price by 50% — would you still stick to the same product if alternatives are available? Probably not. 

3. Know where your customers stand

To retain existing customers (or to generate new ones), you need to understand where your customers stand in the lead funnel.

That's where HubSpot lead scoring comes into play. It'll help you allocate a score to each lead to help you understand how ready they are to make a purchase.

Once you have these scores, you can begin converting leads based on their pain points.

Side note: You can also use HubSpot's scoring methodology to get predictive scores.

4. Treat self-service analytics like the MVP

We all know data reigns supreme. But what about self-service analytics?

Self-service analytics help:

  • Customers identify their own data
  • Keep them engaged
  • Allow room for efficiency and scalability
  • Encourage collaboration

On a minor level, think of the virality of Spotify Wrapped and how it engages customers. People can't wait to share their most streamed artists on their Instagram Stories every year.

Similarly, if you can provide customers with the data they need anytime they want it, they'll keep coming back to you.

4 budget-friendly ways to generate leads

1. Put content marketing at the forefront

If you don't engage with your prospects, they won't know who you are, what you offer, and what differentiates you from your competitors.

That's where the art of customer engagement (aka content marketing) comes in. You can engage with your prospects by sharing informative content, creating ebooks, hosting webinars, targeting their search intent, building email lists, etc.

Benefits of content marketing

As a startup, everyone has to wear many hats, and you may be unable to allocate the necessary time (or budget) for content marketing efforts.

So, here are a few cheat sheets you can implement:

  • Design eye-catching social media posts with the help of free templates for all channels.
  • Create engaging videos with a text-to-speech platform — these tools eliminate any unnecessary time spent on video development. Let's face it. You'll always need a good script.
  • Outsource ebooks and blog posts to the experts by posting blog writing jobs on freelance position hiring platforms. Alternatively, you can open your website for guest writing opportunities.
  • Check out AI platforms like ChatGPT and CopyAI for inspiration and other prompts.
  • Manage email lists with free and freemium services like Substack or ConvertKit.

2. Don’t underestimate the power of good networking events

While most SaaS companies now look at generating leads online, one lead generation mode remains unnoticed even in plain sight — networking events.

These events help you meet other industry leaders (and potential investors) and open doors to potential new clients. As a matter of fact, you can directly land enterprise or business accounts at networking events. It's a win-win.

To prepare, always keep an elevator pitch and your business cards ready at your disposal.

Make sure your elevator pitch focuses on what you can do for the client, and your business cards have all the necessary details — e.g., job title, business phone number, link to your socials, and a QR code that leads to a curated landing page.

With this dynamic duo, you'll wake up the morning after the event with a pipeline of leads.

3. Consider investing in digital ads 

While offline events are great, investing in digital ads is another way to generate leads.

They'll help you land on top of the search engine results page (SERP) and it will only cost you once your leads click on them — if you opt for cost-per-click (CPC) ads, that is.

Example of digital ads being listed before organic results on SERP

Now, we understand that digital ads might sound like an expense, but the key is to make these ads cost-efficient. How to do that, you ask?

Here are a few things you can consider doing:

  • Focus on relevant keywords that have a high conversion rate.
  • Write call-to-actions (CTAs) that show your prospects the value they'll get.
  • Do advanced targeting so you only pay for high-quality leads.
  • Ensure your ad copy and landing pages focus on your audience's pain points.
  • Use personalization to incite emotions.
  • Improve the quality score of your ad (by writing relevant copy, improving website load speed, having an easy-to-navigate user interface, and developing organic traffic through SEO).
  • Consider which factors made your existing customers convert (e.g., did you offer a free trial, cashback guarantee, lowest price, etc.) and create offers accordingly.

The point is — don't be vague with digital ads. In fact, try to be as targeted as possible to reduce your overall ad spend and target only the right people. 

4. Interact with customers on the platforms they use 

Different customers hang around on different platforms. For example, you might find the older generations are on Facebook while millennials are on Instagram.

It gets even more detailed from there. For instance, on Facebook, there could be different groups for writers, email marketers, product developers, etc.

The same goes for other platforms — Reddit, LinkedIn, Slack, Twitter, and more- allowing users to create different groups for different communities.

Example of different communities on Slack

Hanging out at the spaces your customers hang out at has two benefits:

  • You get to engage with your customers directly on these platforms.
  • You get to understand customer pain points since all your customers are there.

Engagement helps you get noticed in the eyes of your customers, and understanding pain points will let you know how to improve your product and target your customers.

Side note: Customer support calls are also a great place to get insights on developing the product, what customers like about your brand, areas where you can upsell, etc.

Wrapping up

Lead generation is a difficult task — we get it. But interacting with people is not.

Often, many SaaS startup brands get sucked into the idea of marketing their product based on technical advantages.

While that's all good, doing too much of it can cause your brand to look like a robot spewing out industry-specific jargon and product advantages.

So, here's what you should do instead: create a personality for your brand and engage with your customers using that personality.

After all, if your company can exist as a sole entity in the eyes of the law, why can't it have an individual personality, too?

And this personality is what's going to keep you in the game. Because, at the end of the day, there's a human behind every computer screen, and that human is who you're selling to (so make the process of nurturing leads interesting for them).

Finally, if you wish to read more on how to generate leads for SaaS startups, keep up with the Smith.ai blog.

Business Education
Software & SaaS
Lead Generation
Written by Jeremy Moser

Jeremy Moser is co-founder & CEO at uSERP, a digital PR and SEO agency working with brands like Monday, ActiveCampaign, Hotjar, and more.

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