By the end of 2022, this number is expected to go far and beyond as well. So there is not much stopping me from saying that SaaS is one of the biggest industries in business tech right now.
Yet it is still a challenge for most SaaS businesses to figure out how they can acquire more customers.
Of course, every business has a different structure, industry, company culture, market fit, etc. and all those parameters play a huge role in how a business grows.
What we need to notice, however, is that there are certain advanced tips almost all B2B companies in SaaS can implement; from the very beginning or even by the time they get to be concerned more with customer retention.
And those tips are exactly what we are talking about today.
But first, let's start from the top.
Why Getting to Your First 10/100/1000 Subscribers in SaaS Is So Hard
This question is the dream/nightmare of any startup founder or founder-to-be and more often than not, it is also the reason that so many businesses fail even before they launch.
Now I am no founder, so you might not want to take my word for it but I've seen my fair share of startup failures (and successes) to know that the primary danger out to get you is one simple thing.
If you start up super fast and try to get yourself involved with everything all at once just to see that subscriber number go up by one every day/week/month, the ground gets a bit shaky.
And a slow-growing business can have exactly the same effects. One day you are relevant, the next day, history.
And, of course, there are more specific reasons hindering you from getting that first 10/100/1000 subscribers too.
Getting the first 10 subscribers
A ground rule for ANY business.
Know your first few customers. Beforehand.
If you cannot get to that first 10, this just might be the problem.
One does not simply found a business without knowing a few people who are guaranteed to buy. Make it the people who have inspired you to found your business and it's even better; now you have potential customer referral opportunities.
Of course, it doesn't mean your first 10 have to be your friends and family. There are SaaS businesses out there selling for the first time to people who are nowhere close to their ideal customer persona.
In any case, don't be discouraged. The key is to first work your network.
You can even get your irrelevant relatives to buy. At the stage you are in, any traction is good traction.
Focus on reaching the first 10 than imagining your first 1000. It'll happen faster than you think.
Getting the first 100 subscribers
You know how some skyscrapers have an elevated entrance where you need to climb a few stairs to get into the building? But then inside there are tons and tons of stairs you might have to climb?
That's how getting your first 10 compares to the first 100, 1000, and the rest.
It is pretty normal to struggle until you get to the 100 subscribers mark, but this is exactly the time you'll realize that there are more stairs to climb and more customers to acquire. And that what you need is but one thing.
A solid game plan.
By the time you are past your first 10 customers if you haven't got or haven't started working on a business model, market strategy, and marketing strategy you will have to slow down a little too much.
And remember, that's not the best idea.
Depending on the components of your company and your industry, you just might get to the first 100 really quickly, or really slowly. How do you know which is normal for you?
By keeping a close watch on your competitors.
That's how businesses thrive and how you'll get to that first 1000 subscribers.
Getting the first 1000 subscribers
In a normal scenario with no huge miracles or unexpected success, by the time your business has a customer base of 1000+ customers, there will be some important changes in your company.
Firstly, the departments and their tasks will be clearly stated. For a large customer base, a large employee base will also be necessary.
Your product will have changed a great deal and product improvements will be constant.
Your customer personas, business model, and even your very own business goal might have changed before 1000.
If these things haven't happened yet, it just might be that you are a very stable and efficient business from the get-go. Or these might be the reason why you are stuck below 1000.
But as I said before, it takes time and careful strategic planning.
Whether it is 10, 100, or 1000 you are stuck at, let's see if you've already mastered the tips I'm about to give you.
15 Tips and Ideas to Go Over and Beyond with Subscriber Acquisition
1- Know your product
While the product itself might be overlooked especially at the startup stage when a business is trying to grow, it is actually the most important thing to consider.
The product is the reason why there is a business at hand.
That's why you cannot just unsee it. The form, UI, UX, the language of a product, and the channels its available on change the whole marketing, sales, support, and even the product team's workflow.
What's more, knowing your product and its potential will help you in making other important decisions like...
2- Know your target audience
Knowing your target audience, in my book, is as important as knowing your product.
Because no product means no customer and vice versa.
And that is exactly why we analyze the people most likely to buy our products and create buyer personas, map out their buyer journey and oversee a customer lifecycle. We need to know everything about our audience base to know what appeals to customers and how we can approach customers.
For example, though Instagram and Facebook are both Meta products, their UI and UX are quite different when compared in terms of the user base.
Facebook features many features and shortcuts on its main page while Instagram refrains from any extra element on its main page for lower friction. This might arguably have a correlation with the age demographics of the user personas of the apps.
3- Set the right growth approach
Adopting a specific growth approach early on means setting your priorities straight.
Of course, it depends on the kind of product you offer yet again, but some of the most popular approaches for growth are sales-led and product-led.
If you have a complex product or service that needs a representative to be involved in the buyer journey, sales-led growth might be your thing.
On the other hand, I am a die-hard advocate of the product-led approach. If your product isn't too complicated for an actual customer to use easily after some onboarding, there is no reason why you wouldn't want to go product-led.
Plus, you could take it up a notch and...
4- Offer free trials/freemiums
I bet that almost everyone in SaaS has heard of HubSpot's success story.
Basically what happened was that they offered a perfectly functional freemium and marketed it so well that everyone became aware of it.
And it wasn't a one-time thing either. To this day, the HubSpot freemium is still a thing.
Only, there are far more new features at the premium option now. Meaning, users get hooked easier and convert to premium easier.
And that is how HubSpot keeps its conversion rate high and acquires new subs easily.
5- Take the right opportunities
Depending on your size and business approach, there will be lots and lots of opportunities coming your way.
These could be collaboration offers, event invites, and other opportunities you can create yourself, like launching on Appsumo.
The most important thing to consider here, and you'll hear this for the first time, is NOT to jump on any and every one of these opportunities.
For example, let's say you took the chance to launch on Appsumo as a startup. Even though it is them that need to accept you to the platform, your product might just not be ready for such intense attention.
Way too many startups had people leave bad reviews just because they weren't fully ready for the attention.
Swinging back to my very first tip: mind your pacing.
6- Track growth using the right metrics
At whatever stage of growth you are, metrics are lifesavers as success indicators for any department and most actions between customer and company.
Still, it is important to use the right metric at the right time.
For example, the rule of 40 is a perfect rule of thumb for businesses trying to balance growth and profit as they expand their business. But when it is a startup that tries it out, the calculation might mean failure.
Similarly, it is not the best practice to use too many metrics at once. While some can complement each other when used in tandems like churn rate and active users, some others like key feature adoption rate and DAU rate can undermine each other.
7- Discount, Promote, Deal
With a good marketing team and access to the right channels, getting customer subscriptions can be easier than you think.
Let's rewind to my favorite SaaS marketing success story: Crazy Egg.
Co-founded by marketing superstar Neil Patel, Crazy Egg is famous for putting up ads on a designer platform promoting free heat maps in exchange for one thing: emails.
That's how you promote, gather up an entire email list, have people subscribe to your product, and do it all with just $10K.
As long as you know your product and your people, any discount, promotion, or deal can be a profit.
8- Never underestimate customer service
In the brink of an era where users barely ever talk to real people, customer service and customer support are more important than you think. And for all the right reasons too.
It is no secret that most users prefer checking self-service options first when in need of customer support, myself included. But hey, that's customer service too.
By streamlining your support data and creating a knowledge base, you can start with customer service right away.
Another great option is a live chat solution, but the main idea is to double up support channels and scale whatever's at hand.
9- Gather customer testimonials
Half of the success of a successful company comes from marketing that success the right way.
Got a happy customer?
Let them express themselves. Turn it into a fully-fledged success story.
As you might realize from your own purchase decisions and user journey on other platforms, customer testimonial are quite impactful. So much so that Big Commerce found out that 72% consumers are inspired to trust a brand after seeing positive testimonials.
Let people see that customer satisfaction is the norm for your business.
10- Mind your customer retention rates
Two cool stats right off the bat:
Firstly, customer acquisition can cost 5 times more than customer retention.
And another stat we know by heart by now, an increase of 5% in customer retention means up to 95% more profit.
As a business grows so does its customer base.
And no matter what the customer lifecycle looks like, by the time a business has more than a certain amount of subscribers it is time to balance acquisition and retention initiatives.
My point is that customer retention is almost as important as customer acquisition - if not more.
A business could be getting new subs every day. It means nothing unless they stick around for the rest of the billing cycle.
Now I don't know about you but I wouldn't even want to give up on 1 of 10 because I offer them a poor CX.
What's more, your product's user interface and UX is a part of customer experience too and no, slip-ups are not an option.
But the bright side is, a UI/UX change can increase active users, retention rates, and even revolutionize the way you do your business.
When it first launched Instagram was quite heavily compared to Flickr, an image storing platform. But thanks to its innovative design and UX, it became more than a storage.
The best part of this is that you can initiate that UX change at any point. No missed opportunities.
12- Perfect your onboarding game
Talking about UX means we have to address onboarding UX as well.
And right off the bat let me just say: it is the best and most essential element you can add to your overall user experience.
86% of customers will pay more for a better onboarding experience. And another 86%" say that a welcoming, educational onboarding process increases customer loyalty.
You might also want to keep in mind that users getting inactive in a matter of days can be directly linked to bad onboarding.
Give it some thought.
13- Create quality content & work that SEO
In 2022, if you're not doing content marketing, you are not doing marketing.
The way blog posts attract organic traffic and go all the way to score a fair amount of subscriptions is quite frankly a deal no one should be missing out on.
But of course, it all boils down to quality content. That's how HubSpot did it.
If you're mature enough a company to give your marketing team a proper budget, make sure some of it goes to creating SEO strategies.
Having customers be able to find you themselves is priceless in comparison to the budget you'll be giving for content marketing.
14- Use co-marketing and ads to your advantage
While you're at it with content marketing, you can start looking for co-marketing opportunities as well.
It can be on any medium, but most of the time blog posts work wonders.
If you're not the writer type, get yourself a content writer and work towards making them an authority in the field. If collaboration requests aren't coming to you already, you can always shoot your shot at LinkedIn.
It is also important to leverage ads to your advantage. Remember Crazy Egg's strategy?
Put the ad where you know it'll attract to most customers and you'll know those marketing costs will pay themselves.
15- Revisit and revive successful strategies
If you haven't used the tips above, good! Now you have some fresh ideas to implement.
If you have tried out all of them, but still experiencing churn and low conversion rates, that's also alright. Now you know what strategies you can revisit.
You might have already noticed but any business strategy needs to be properly timed to work well. If something didn't work for you before, it doesn't mean it won't work again.
Revisit your past strategies, revise if necessary, and revive them for a second chance at successful customer acquisition.
Frequently Asked Questions
How do I get 1000 SaaS customers?
Getting your first 1000 SaaS customers can be a long road and if you are not willing to streamline every business process it gets harder and harder.
Of course, there isn't one good way of getting customers, but to get to the 1000 mark businesses can try content marketing, online presence, better metric tracking, and appropriately timed promotions.
How do I grow a small SaaS company?
Just like any other business, a SaaS company's success depends on two things: the product and the customers.
If you have a well-built productand you know people who would be willing to buy it, you can start by creating your ideal customer personas. As you start getting your first few customers - anyone is cool to start it off - the rest of the work processes will naturally shape up.