When Instagram was launched to the public on October 6, 2010, it hit 25,000 users within the first day and 100,000 users within the first week becoming the number one in camera applications in the Apple app store.
One person influencing this growth was Jack Dorsey who had tweeted that it was his favorite new app & people rushed to check it out.
This is an example of influencer marketing. Even if it might have happened organically without anyone paying/collaborating with Jack.
"But was it a fluke? Does influencer marketing really work for Saas products and not just DTC brands? How can this be engineered? And where can one find the Jack Dorsey to their Saas product?"
You might have all these questions so let's explore them and then study the step-by-step approach of finding creators to onboarding them as ambassadors for your B2C Saas business.
Why Should You Invest In Influencer Marketing For B2C SaaS Product? Will It Work?
There are a few reasons why influencer marketing is a more sustainable way for a SaaS to grow rather than dumping money into advertisements.
Software purchases heavily rely on reviews
A software that requires a $2-10 subscription fee per month might seem like it should be an impulse buy. But looking only at the cost of the product would be a narrow viewpoint. Software requires a learning curve, and one has to invest time in migrating from old tools or methods of getting the job done.
That's why people spend more time talking to friends and colleagues, watching review videos about software than about clothes or food items. If a creator that has built authority in space reviews your product, it's more likely to get considered by your audience.
Build trust in your product and brand
An influencer is usually an expert who is seen as the “go-to” source for trusted information about a particular topic. They've set a high standard for things they use and can be proud of promoting. Nobody wants to be the one trick pony, promote something for just money only to get bitten later by angry fans.
A creator's audience trusts them to provide the right information and to not promote anything that's shady, low-quality or useless. You would be borrowing this trust for your brand when the creator would vouch for your product & its usefulness.
Get content creatives for ads, review pages, videos
A creator has all the knowledge, tools, and creativity to generate content that would engage people. With the advent of AI, the creator can generate ideas with AI content marketing tools too! You can leverage their skills by partnering with them for generating ads for your product. You would be delegating the creation part to someone who does it the best while you focus on strategic things in your business. Your ads would also come with the social proof of being recommended by an influencer.
If they use your product but don't create the videos for your ads, you can at least ask for review and display it on your website to build social proof.
We've talked in detail about how to generate ad creatives for your DTC brand. The same concept would apply to a Saas product. Instead of shipping physical products, you would just be enabling free access to the tool for the creator.
Advertising is expensive
CPC bids for most software-related keywords can be as expensive as $100 (source). On top of it, you have stiff competition from 10-12 competitors. If you are just starting out and have limited capital & no data on how much you should spend to acquire each user, it can seem daunting to optimize a Google ads campaign.
Moreover, your B2C SaaS product is likely to be a low-ticket subscription (e.g. Notion starts from $5/mo, Sunsama costs $10/mo). So paying hundreds of dollars to acquire a single customer doesn't make business sense if you don't have deep pockets.
4 Steps of Running Influencer Marketing Campaigns For Your SaaS Business
Find creators in your niche
As a B2C SaaS company, you are more likely to see results if you work with micro or nano-influencers. Macro-influencers or celebrities are followed by a wide range of audience & most of them might not even be your ideal customers.
How do you find influencers in your niche?
Start with your team:
People in your team likely use your product, and can answer questions about it. If they have built an audience on their own, they would be perfect candidates to spread awareness about your product.
Ahrefs, an SEO tool, is a great example. Most of people in the marketing team can be considered nano or micro influencers on Twitter:
- Tim Soulo: 41,400 followers
- Patrick Stox: 15,700 followers
- Sam Oh: 14,600 followers
- Joshua Hardwick: 9000 followers
Look into your customer list
Did a creator or someone influential start using your product? If they like your product, they would be happy to collaborate or review it on their social media channels.
If you don't have recognizable or famous people as your customers, simply scan your customer list and find out people who have an audience of 5K +. It might not be straightforward if you don't have their social media handles to begin with. Get creative with ideas to find this info & hire someone from Fiverr to do the job for you
Tip: If you have some sticky initial customers, ask them which creators they follow and filter out the ones that are related to your niche.
Generate inbound interest
Create a dedicated page where creators that align with your mission and use your product can come and register to become a partner.
It will help you get inbound leads instead of you making the effort to find, reach out and wait for response from creators.
An example of this is NordVPN's creator landing page asking YouTube creators and Twitch streams to connect with them & get rewarded for promoting the product.
If you want to take inspiration from a DTC brand, we've talked about how Athletic Greens has created a great dedicated landing page for creators in our breakdown of their influencer marketing program here.
SARAL Tip: Choose the right channel
Just choosing the right creator to partner might not be enough. You also have to look at the top 2-3 channels where your customers might hang out more than other channels & find creators on those channels. This will help you maximize the ROI instead of just hoping that your influencer will get you the users.
For example, InVideo, an online video making tool sponsors creators from YouTube as other YouTubers also hang out there. Ahrefs partners with marketing newsletters because that's the primary content marketers consume when they are thinking about 'work'. An Ahrefs video interrupting a marketer's standup comedy show might get more hate than love.
Reach out to creators
Once you have a list of creators ready, reach out to them via email or DM them asking for their address. Explain that you wish to send them a free product for their honest feedback. Their email should be in their bio, or on their website. Most nano-influencers might not be savvy enough to put their email address in public.
If you are worried that might waste a lot of time trying to get their attention, stop doing the following to 10x your chances of getting a reply back:
- Never 'order' them to give your product a shoutout. Simply tell how you want to add value to them with your free product
- Don't spam them with too many messages showing desperation for a reply.
- Never send them a creative brief or a budget in the first email
Here's what you should keep in mind:
- Keep the first message short
- Give, before you ask — Send your product for free without any ask upfront
- Prefer creators who are interested in affiliate deals more than who work with upfront payments
- Follow up at regular intervals and stop after you've sent 5-6 messages
Checkout out full post going into detail with these tips and mistakes to avoid here.
While your email drip is running, DM the creators informing them about your email, engage with them on comments so you stay on top of mind. Here are some additional influencer DM templates from our academy.
If you make your life easier and automate the process of following-up with the creator, you can use tools like SARAL where you set up the email flow just once and it runs on auto-pilot for you until you get a reply from creators.
If they still don’t reply after all this, add them to a once-per-month email drip which sends them updated ambassador results, posts, etc. Occasionally comment on their posts if you really wanna work with them.
The above approach works well if you are targeting nano or micro influencers and you actually care about building a relationship with the creators.
If you want to partner with macro influencers you can approach by offering free access to your tool. Don't just offer the same trial you offer to the public. Go the extra mile and offer free access for a long enough time to make them your fans.
In case you want to do a contract, or if the creator insists. Here are some best practices.
At SARAL, we’re working with lawyers to create general purpose contract templates for you, will keep you posted!
Onboard as ambassadors
You will get all kinds of responses from creators from 'let's do it', to 'i don't work for free' to 'let me send my proposal.' The best kind of outcome would be a deal where you are not paying upfront and paying only for the results you get.
It's possible if you onboard creators as ambassadors. Ambassadors are long-term creator partners who operate on some sort of commission model. This lowers your risk and builds a pool of creators who work long-term with you rather than for just one campaign.
Here's a neat cheat-sheet we made to help you navigate the deal-making:
In DTC ecommerce, affiliate marketing is common for slightly expensive products such as electronics, or bundled items. But in the case of SaaS, creators don't have a huge incentive to do a pure-affiliate partnership because the commissions are very low due to the low ticket size of B2C SaaS products.
The better strategy that's a win-win for both brands and creators is an Ambassador deal. Meaning, creators get a certain amount when users sign up for a free trial (or more when the upgrade).
If you offer a freemium or free trial to your new users, here's how you can structure your deal —
- Creators get $ for every person who came through their social media and started the trial.
- Creators get additional $ when someone from their network upgrades from trial to paid subscription. The $ amount can vary depending on whether the upgrade was monthly or yearly. It can be set up on a recurring basis as long as someone keeps renewing the membership. Be creative here!
This is rare, but in case your product can be used only by paying upfront, you can offer the creator a % of the earnings that comes from them. It can be set up on a recurring basis based on whether someone continued the subscription and at what price point.
Don't be scared by the amount of calculations you might have to do for such partnerships to work. Managing such programs and payouts is automatic and easier with tools like Partnerstack, Refersion or GoAffPro.
One thing that sets SaaS ambassador programs apart from pure-affiliates is the recurring commissions that a creator gets every time someone they 'influenced' renews their subscription.
Distribute the content they created
When a creator posts about your product, reach out and thank them for it. Amplify this content via your own channels, or give them a PR boost to show that you are also invested in helping them grow their audience.
If you wish to use their content for running ads, reach out to get usage rights (usage rights define who owns the content and where it can be used) for the video/post:
We're so glad you liked our product. Thank you for sharing it with your audience.
We'd love to be able to share this with our audiences as well! Could we have the right to use this content on organic and paid social sites for 30 days?
If the response to this message is a no, find out if they have any terms & conditions you can fulfill to allow you to still use the content. If they say yes, run ads via your company's account or the creator's account so they can also increase their audience size — this is called whitelisting. Check out how a DTC brand, Athletic Greens uses creator content for whitelisting ads.
Other free ways to distribute the creator's content are:
- Re-share on your social media as a post or one-time IG Story
- Talk about the creator and their review in your newsletter
- Put their review on your website to build credibility
- Add Story highlight on IG to build social proof and also show other creators that you've worked with people like them before
Examples of Influence Marketing by SaaS Companies
Here are some examples of successful influencer marketing campaigns for your inspiration
Canva is an online graphic design tool. Guy Kawasaki tweeted about using Canva in 2014 and later that year, he came on board as the chief evangelist of the product.
He said, “I was an early adopter of Canva and used it to create graphics for my social media posts and email newsletters. After making contact with Canva’s founders, I was enchanted by the company’s vision and desire to change the world.” (source: Canva blog)
NordVPN has become one of the top trusted VPNs due to their influencer marketing on YouTube. It attracts approx 11.8M website visits in just 6 months. In 2020 Q3 it was the highest spender on YouTube.
Their sponsored videos drew in more than 300M views and 50M likes, comments, and shares. Their videos were targeted towards the male audiences interested in technology, gaming, sports, & comedy.
Ahrefs is a SEO software suite that sponsors marketing newsletters and marketing websites.
Notions has done a great job of finding creators from their customer pool and turning them into ambassadors. Read the full breakdown of Notion's Ambassador Program that takes care of viral marketing for them.
They've mainly sponsored YouTube videos related to productivity, note taking, project management etc.
we would leave you with two things that you should keep in mind for long-term success while working with creators —
- It doesn’t always have to be about sponsoring expensive creators or celebrities and running blatant product placements.
- There's a playbook that works and you don't have to reinvent the wheel. I hope that this playbook will serve as a good start for you to leverage influencer marketing for the growth of your SaaS product.
If we missed any tactic or if you have a question you would like to get an answer to, join our newsletter and let us know with your reply. Signup in the box on the side to join the “No BS” Influence Marketing Letter.