The 4 Most Game-Changing SaaS Lead Generation Strategies Based on a Mountain of Data

by Nick Mann

Over the last decade, the number of SaaS companies grew from 150 in 2011 to 11,000 in 2020. As the volume of brands grows, so does the level of competition. 

Unsurprisingly, lead generation was the number one priority for SaaS marketers in 2020. Being able to generate quality leads through the right mix of promotional channels ensures your marketing team sends plenty of potential customers to sales, who can in turn, nurture them and convert them into paying customers. 

While there’s no lack of SaaS lead generation strategies out there, many are cookie-cutter and simply don’t have the firepower to have a tangible impact. Here are four of the most innovative, tested, and proven SaaS lead generations strategies based on concrete data from recent studies.

1. Data-driven case studies

There are multiple avenues you can take with content, but case studies can be a major game-changer for SaaS companies. If you’re not 100% sure what a case study is, it’s an in-depth study of an instance where a real-life customer used your SaaS product and saw amazing results. 

Case studies include information like:

Content marketing is hands down one of the most potent mediums for reaching SaaS leads and initiating the nurturing process. 70% of marketers currently use content marketing, and 40% say it’s “a very important part of their overall marketing strategy.”

  • Product applications
  • Examples of your product being used
  • User testimonials
  • Quantifiable data like growth statistics 

Not only do case studies serve as excellent lead magnets that prospects can find through search, social media, and email to drive quality traffic to your site, they provide context and valuable social proof to convince leads to buy. By presenting exactly how a customer has used your product and how it’s improved their business performance, you give leads a crystal clear idea of how your product or service can benefit them as well. 

Of the 73% of marketers using this medium today, case studies are cited as being the second most effective form of content, just behind whitepapers. SEO/digital marketing expert, Neil Patel saw a 185% increase in his sales after testing three case studies on his site. 

Meeting scheduling app, Chili Piper, is a prime example of a SaaS brand that’s used case studies to generate massive leads. In this particular one, they include a brief video featuring the customer’s director of growth. 

They also include plenty of juicy data, such as stating this customer saw a 50% increase in their number of inbound meetings and a staggering 300% spike in revenue. 

2. User-rich free trials

Offering free trials for SaaS products has become a common practice as of late. In fact, recent data has found that 44% of SaaS companies now offer some sort of free trial or freemium version of their product. 

And for good reason. Trials often lead to an influx of new customers. Data from conversion rate optimization brand, Invesp, found more than 50% of new business comes from free trials for 16% of SaaS companies. 

Screenshot from Invesp

Offering an amazing free trial experience is the ultimate two-pronged attack because it:

  1. Allows you to get the absolute most out of the traffic that comes to your site
  2. Creates buzz around your product, which can bring in a sustainable source of even more targeted traffic

And it’s the latter that’s of interest here. By getting people talking about your product and sharing their experience, it organically generates a high volume of SaaS leads, with a built-in level of trust because you’ve already gotten the tip of the hat from existing users. 

In fact, that’s one of the ways massive SaaS brands like HubSot have gotten as big as they have. They’ve incorporated free versions of their tools into their marketing game plan, and the results speak for themselves. 

Screenshot from HubSpot

There are two key pieces of advice to get the most out of free trials and maximize conversions. One is to not require free users to enter their credit card information. Invesp’s research found avoiding this barrier results in double the customers than requiring credit card information. 

The second is to make sure free trial users are contacted by a sales rep. According to Invesp, this increases the chance of users buying your paid service by 70%. 

3. High impact referral marketing

Word-of-mouth referrals are one of the oldest forms of lead generation. But it’s also one of the most effective. A Nielsen report found 92% of customers trust suggestions from people they know more than advertising. Further, 74% of people say word-of-mouth factors heavily into their buying decisions. 

So it’s easy to see why referral marketing makes sense for many SaaS companies. It’s an effective way to generate more leads from existing customers, who you can, in turn, generate even more leads from. When done correctly, this strategy can have a snowball effect and keep a steady stream of ultra-qualified leads coming your way, all while establishing a level of rapport that’s nearly impossible to establish otherwise. 

The best way to illustrate the power of referral marketing in a SaaS context is with this example from Dropbox. They’ve made referral marketing an integral part of their lead generation strategy and offer users extra space by referring others. 

Basic accounts, for instance, get an additional 500 MB of storage per referral, while Plus and Professional accounts get 1 GB per referral. 

Screenshot from Dropbox

This provides a strong incentive for users to spread the word, and Dropbox provides simple instructions on how to send referral links. 

The results?

Dropbox saw a ridiculous 40x increase in their number of users in just 15 months, going from 100,000 users to 4 million

Not only is this one of the best ways to scale your SaaS company in a hurry, you can do it while bypassing traditional ad spend. 

The best part is that referred customers:

  • Spend 200% more than non-referred customers
  • Have a 37% higher retention rate
  • Are 18% more loyal
  • Are 4x more likely to refer their own customers

4. Key partnerships through robust product integrations

Most SaaS products now integrate with at least a handful of other products in the cloud. But according to recent data, product integrations are something you should get serious about, as they can be instrumental for lead generation. 

As of mid-2020, the world’s top 1,000 SaaS companies had a median number of 15 product integrations. The fastest-growing companies, however, had more than triple that at 46 integrations.  

And 11% of the fastest-growing companies take it one step further, “explicitly encouraging third-party developers to build integrations into their product.” 

Just look at Shopify. They’ve placed a huge emphasis on integrations and currently have over 3,500. 

Screenshot from Shopify

And here’s how their revenue has skyrocketed from 2015 to 2020. 

Screenshot from Statista

This shows firsthand the correlation between robust product integrations and rapid growth. Taking this approach is a win-win because it provides the perfect framework to form valuable partnerships within your industry, potentially pointing thousands, if not millions of users to your brand. At the same time, it enhances the user experience where your customers can sync your platform with others they’re already using. 

SaaS marketing expert Sam Aparicio summarizes the backbone of this strategy perfectly with this quote. 

“Work with complimentary SaaS products and build a relationship with partner companies to help both of you grow. Generate high-affinity qualified web traffic referred from the marketing programs and web assets of your company’s partner.” 

The end result should be more high-quality leads for both parties, a major brand equity boost, and happier customers. 

Closing thoughts

Experts predict the SaaS industry will grow by $44.17 billion from 2021-2025, meaning there’s boundless potential for smart, savvy, growth-focused brands. That said, competition has become fierce and will only continue to intensify throughout the 2020s. 

Therefore, it’s more important than ever to develop high-powered, sustainable SaaS lead generation strategies. While there’s a smorgasbord of options to choose from, the four strategies highlighted above have proven to be legitimate game-changers, and there’s a mountain of data to back up their validity. 

One final note to make is that whenever you find a lead gen channel that clearly works, you want to carefully nurture it by sending prospects a steady stream of valuable content, delivering it to their inbox and on social media. Through a steady drip over a long period of time, you can build rapport and establish strong relationships where leads feel comfortable choosing you as their SaaS provider. 

If, for example, you find that case studies are having a big impact, you would want to create multiple case studies from several different customers to provide leads with a comprehensive vantage point. Or, if you’re having success with ongoing content creation through blogs, you would want to send these to leads on the channels they’re most active on. 

Although not all leads are ready to buy right away, many can be persuaded to convert in time.