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SaaS Marketing Examples: Early Stage Company

By John McTigueJul 2, 2014

sprout social saas marketing 

Sprout Social is a Chicago-based SaaS company that provides social media management, engagement and analytics tools. Founded in 2010, the company has recently completed a Series B funding round for $18 million, according to Crunchbase. By all accounts, Sprout Social has done well so far, with more than 10,000 customers including brands such as AMD, Nokia, McDonalds and Pepsi. Let's take a look at how they do their marketing.

Brand Awareness and Reach

sprout social seoSprout Social isn't shy about getting the word out on search engines and social media. After all, it has some stiff competition from Hootsuite, Sysomos and a host of smaller SaaS startups in the social media management tool space. Sprout Social ranks third in Adwords, second in Google organic SERPs and third on Bing for "social media management software." The brand averages around 30K visits a day and ranks in the top 10 on Google for about 1,000 keywords. It has more than 49K followers on Twitter, 37K Facebook likes and 20K Google+ followers driving almost 1 million views. Sprout is all over media as well—everything from marketing and social media conferences to TV and news outlets. A couple of months ago it was highlighted by Fox News Chicago for being a very cool place to work for millennials.

Content Marketing

The Sprout Social website features simple, benefit-focused messaging and a direct, up-front call to action to sign up for a free trial. The home page is optimized for "social media management software" and features a scroll-down approach to show the visitor what the software does, who uses it and user examples. While there is nothing ground-breaking about Sprout Social's approach to website design or messaging, what it is doing is working. In particular, its content marketing program is operating at a high level, including making effective use of owned, earned and paid media, which undoubtedly drive both organic search and social media traffic to the site.

sprout social content marketing

Sprout's Insights section features at least one new blog post per day, and its posts offer insightful tips and thought leadership on the business use of social media. Individual posts typically garner 50+ tweets and good distribution on Google+ and Facebook, as well. Sprout's own community managers share helpful content from third parties, in addition to their own content, and participate in online events, such as a recent #CMGRHangout Panel on the Habits of Successful [Social Media] Community Managers. Sprout Social also offers numerous helpful guides and thought leadership pieces, as well as press coverage in its Resources area of the Insights section.

Free Trial Experience

Like most SaaS companies, Sprout Social focuses on converting visitors into free trial subscribers as their primary call to action. You get an initial view of the pricing options, then an invitation to register for a free 30-day trial. Registration is simple, and Sprout leads you through the permission process for accessing your social media profiles. You are encouraged to add more team members throughout the process. This is smart, because it exposes more people from your company and may add a groundswell of support for subscribing to the service beyond the trial. It took a few minutes to grab my social profile feeds and update the main dashboard, so I wasn't sure if everything was working, but after clicking my Messages, I could start to monitor my profiles.

sprout social support chatOne of the keys to success in SaaS free trials is the customer experience, especially when it comes to support. Is the software easy to use, and how easy is it to find help when you need it? Sprout Social does have a live chat feature for both Sales and Support, which is good. I received an email within an hour or so thanking me for the trial subscription and offering both new user support resources and contact information for direct support. This type of communication is essential to make sure new users have a positive experience with the trial. At the end of the email, they let me know more help is on the way:

"We'll be in touch throughout your trial to ensure you enjoy everything we have to offer! - Team Sprout"

Overall Impressions

SaaS Marketers can learn a lot from Sprout Social's overall strategy and execution. In general, the visitor experience is strong, and it's easy to understand what the software does and why I should be interested. While there is plenty of solid, helpful information in the Insights blog, there is really only one call to action on the website, a free trial, so you're either in or you're out. Risky? Time will tell. The free trial itself seems to be easy and effective so far. I'm looking forward to seeing how the Sales and Marketing Team approaches me during the 30 days to convert me into a customer. Some things Sprout Social may want to consider going forward:

  • Add some additional content-driven calls to action on the home page in the scrollable area to convert top-funnel leads that may not be ready for a free trial.
  • Add a Support link in the main website navigation (right now it's buried in the sprocket on the app itself).
  • Elevate one or two case studies to the Home page to show how users are directly benefiting.
  • Add some messaging on how Sprout Social differentiates itself from competitors.
  • Add links to third-party comparisons and review sites mentioning the brand. Consumers want to know how Sprout compares to its competitors, and they appreciate transparency.
  • Feature more real stories from Sprout users, not just a few testimonials—elebrate their successes and invite them to add more reviews and comments. This is what sells software today.

I look forward to following the progress of Sprout Social and getting a feel for how the company markets and sells to me. I'll be updating this post in the comments section as things develop. I plan to take the free trial seriously, and I'm open minded about a possible purchase at the end of the trial.

What are your experiences with other SaaS companies and their marketing strategies?

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The Author

John McTigue

With over 30 years of business and marketing experience, John loves to blog about ideas and trends that challenge inbound marketers and sales and marketing executives. John has a unique way of blending truth with sarcasm and passion with wit. You can connect with John via LinkedIn, Twitter and Google Plus.
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