Software-as-a-Service (SaaS), once the new kid acronym on the technology block, has become so deeply entrenched in our technological world as to spawn a new generation of as-a-service models (we’re looking at you AIaaS)—and an entire field of savvy SaaS marketers. Indeed, SaaS has long since left its “emerging” roots behind and hit a new level of marketing maturation.
But with this newfound maturity comes great responsibility. Recent surveys among SaaS marketing executives found that strategy, segmentation, differentiation, and adoption of new technologies will be of heightened importance for this group in 2022. And, as the world continues to reel from COVID-19 and its impact on the economy of work, there will be an even greater emphasis on employee engagement and cross-departmental relationship building.
The Broad Strokes: SaaS Industry Growth Drivers & Challenges
Not so surprisingly, our world of remote work and tech disruption will continue to be key growth drivers for the SaaS industry. And for the top-tier SaaS and cloud companies that can bring that growth, valuations are at an all-time high—34x ARR today, up from a pretty consistent 10x through 2018, per SaaStr. But just as much as our digitized, app-happy workforce can help us grow revenue, it can just as easily take it away.
-The move to mobile is never over, but desktop-only is. The remote worker will continue to drive SaaS apps to mobile so they can log in anytime, anywhere on a variety of devices.
-AI and IoT—and the endless supply of newcomers to these arenas—will drive major SaaS growth.
-Marketers are flying blind to a much greater degree than years past: With more prospective buyers using untrackable methods to get product and service information (e.g., media roundups, user forums, personal networks), marketers will face growing pressure to generate the demand necessary to meet revenue goals.
SaaS Marketing Will Get More Tech + Data Driven
Yes, there once was a time that metrics didn’t reign supreme in marketing, but that time is NOT now. And as romantic as the ideas of gut instinct and natural marketing ability were, they’ve given way to algorithms, automation, and AI.
-Predictive analytics will go from experimental to mainstream, as companies spend the effort to deploy them with every customer touchpoint. Marketers who can effectively implement these new tools will gain customer loyalty, especially among Gen Z.
-Product Lead Strategies that focus on up-selling customers from freemium to paid versions will continue to grow, spawning a new stage in the marketing funnel called Product Qualified Lead (PQL).
-The COVID-induced labor shortage will enable SaaS vendors to disintermediate industries that have been resistant to automation.
Values and Culture Are Growing in Importance
With employees’ relationships to their work rattled since the start of COVID-19—corporate layoffs giving way to the Great Resignation—SaaS marketers will need to take a leadership role in shaping the employee experience. Communicative and empathetic managers who are able to foster employee engagement will make big strides in retaining talent and, consequently, impacting customer engagement.
Outside of their own teams, marketers will need to step up their alignment with groups like Governance, risk management and compliance (GRC) and environmental, social and governance (ESG) that are focused on company values and practices. It’s not good enough to communicate around pure offerings anymore.
-The employee experience will become vitally important in 2022, as employees across the board seek more purpose in their work lives. Support must be provided to workers so they can create and sustain the internal relationships that will keep them happily committed to their jobs.
-Greater employee engagement will become a driver for customer engagement—an entirely new marketing engine.
-GRC will become more mainstream, making each department more willing to share information and resources with one another. This heightened focus on GRC strategy will reduce risks, costs, and duplication of efforts across departments.
-Marketers will need to take special care to ensure a brand’s story satisfies and compliments the pressing issues undertaken by ESG. And, in this sense, the ESG framework and its participants will be drivers of growth in 2022.
As SaaS assumes its more mature status in tech, marketing leaders will need to cozy up to their more expansive roles as tech drivers, relationship builders, and strategic architects in order to continue their growth trajectory in 2022.
Angus Robertson is a Partner and CMO with Chief Outsiders, the nation’s fastest-growing executive-as-a-service company.
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