SaaS Marketing Case Study: How We Generated 500K Monthly Visitors, 15K Monthly Trials and $40K of New MRR

Bonus Material: Complete Go-to-Market Playbook

This strategy will not work for all businesses. 

It is designed for B2B SaaS companies with aggressive growth goals who need a repeatable playbook to acquire new customers. 

Today, I’m going to walk you through how we grew from $2 million in annual recurring revenue (ARR) with 25 employees to $18 million ARR with over 130 employees.

If you want to generate 500K+ visitors, 15K+ free trials, and $40K+ of new monthly recurring revenue each month, then this is the DEMAND GENERATION STRATEGY to do it. 

You can download every system and framework that we use to get these results.

I’m still the VP of Sales and Marketing at our venture-backed, B2B SaaS company. We still use these tactics today. For competitive reasons, rather than using actual creative, ads, and content that we use today, I will use comparable creative and content examples, so you can still understand how we do it.  

Getting the Flywheel Right: Product-Market Fit Before Go-to-Market Fit

Website traffic, email lists, trials, leads… are all important factors to focus on for long-term growth. But, none of it matters until you validate that your customers love your product.

Otherwise, here’s what your go-to-market efforts will look like (credit Moynaak): 

At $2 million ARR, our NPS scores were in the 40s (>30 is good based on software benchmarks). 

We had customer cohorts with 13-month net revenue retention rates north of 200+%.

Meaning if a customer signed up Month 1 spending $1K/month, by Month 13 they were spending $2K/month with us. 

On average, every user was inviting 3 more users and 20% of them were converting to a trial. 

The power of subscription revenue for Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) companies was on full display.

So, how did we do it? 

There were 2 factors driving our compound growth:

  1. We had a great product that was novel at the time.
  2. We had a powerful demand generation machine that spun our flywheel faster.        

And our flywheel compounded growth like this:  

  1. Publish data-driven content.
  2. Distribute content.
  3. Get more traffic.
  4. Get more trials/customers.
  5. Publish more data driven content.

Round and round we go.

Ask an average marketer what their go-to-market strategy looks like and they’ll show you this:

That’s a losing strategy nowadays. 

A strategy that typically results in marketing teams spending thousands or millions of dollars on content and paid traffic with little to no revenue to show for it. 

For us, every new customer drove more customers.   

I’ll walk you through this in step-by-step detail. 

We Generated 500K+ New Monthly Visitors, 15K+ New Trials and $40K in New Recurring Revenue Every Month with this Strategy

Those are big numbers. And it took us over 3 years to achieve those numbers. 

One thing I learned along the way was that not all traffic or trials are created equal. 

Don’t be fooled into chasing vanity metrics (credit Isabel Goldin). 

Here are a few examples of experiments we ran that chased vanity metrics: 

  1. Producing blog content for long-tail keywords with very low competition, but very high search volume that doesn’t relate to your target buyer personas. 
  2. Bidding on Google search keywords that drive trial starts but don’t bring in your target buyer personas. 
  3. Paying for cheap ad inventory that doesn’t attract your target buyer personas. 

We fell into these traps. I’m totally guilty. 

It’s very tempting to drive up vanity metrics. 

Don’t bother. 

None of those experiments resulted in anything close to a favorable customer acquisition cost (CAC) for us. It was just a waste of time and resources. 

Over time though, we refined our strategy and unlocked a step-by-step process to get traffic that converts into sales

And not just any sales.

Our customers are world-class companies. Think Snowflake, Stripe, Doordash, Salesforce and the list goes on…   

The 6 steps we follow to execute our strategy are: 

  1. Write Long-Tail Keyword Content + Data-Driven Content
  2. Optimize Content with SEO Best Practices and Capture Emails
  3. Pay for Massive Distribution and Retarget Audiences with Free Trial CTAs
  4. Give Trial Users Free Product Credits for Inviting Friends
  5. Drive Trial Engagement and Adoption to Convert Into Paid Subscribers

Below is a breakdown of how every part of the strategy works. 

I’ll do a deep-dive into how we execute day to day with our team. The tools we use, content examples, tactics and templates. 

Once you know how to do this, it’s like riding a bike. You can do it over and over again. 

Sure, your product may be different and the buyer personas may be different, but the principles remain the same. 

BONUS: Download our Ideal Customer Profile Template.

Step #1: We Write Long-Tail Keyword Content + Data-Driven Content

Building a brand is about incrementally building trust with your customers. Trust is like a bank account. Every time you make a promise and fulfill on that promise, you make a deposit into the trust bank.

So that means, every customer experience with your brand either builds trust or it erodes trust.  

Now consider this. Have you ever published a piece of content that you had some $10/hour content farm write for you?

Your customer reads the sensational headline, clicks on it, reads the first paragraph, and realizes they were tricked into reading a crappy piece of content with little value.

You have eroded trust. 

The next time they see your content, they will know not to be tricked by you anymore and will ignore your content. 

This pattern happens all the time. 

Most agencies and marketing leaders will tell you that more content is the solution. 

When really, you don’t need more content. You need better content. 

Well, you probably need both. But start with the quality first.

We write 2 kinds of content:

  1. Long-tail keyword content that is optimized for search engines.
  2. Data-driven content based on insights from customer product usage. 

They each serve a different purpose. 

Long-tail keyword SEO content is grouped by pillars and topic clusters. We identify our pillars and topic clusters using a tool called SEM Rush.

Then we organize the keywords using our Keyword Research Template.

Hubspot has written at length about this strategy. Here’s the concept if you’re not familiar (credit Hubspot): 

So, let’s say you sold invoicing software. You may structure your pillar and cluster content as follows (credit Clariant Creative): 

The pillar is "Freelance Invoicing." You want to own this topic in search results. The cluster topics are "How to generate an invoice" etc.

So, we document our top 3-5 pillars. Then we document all of the keyword topic clusters that roll up to the pillars.

From that list of topic clusters, we identify data-driven content opportunities.

If we sold invoice software, we would look at our anonymous user data for inspiration. And maybe we choose to write a piece of content about "how quickly the average invoice is paid" for companies of different sizes. OR maybe we write a content piece on "the most common invoice templates".

You could wrap either in a catchy headline and tell a story that helps to educate your target audience.

Lastly, we optimize the content to rank in search results and insert calls-to-action to download related assets in exchange for their email addresses.

I'll go into exactly how we do that next.

Step #2: Optimize Content with SEO Best Practices and Capture Emails

There are basic principles we follow for every piece of content published. 

Despite these being well documented, it’s incredible how many sites still DO NOT follow these best practices. They are stuck in an endless cycle of publishing mediocre content that doesn’t get ranked. 

We have a template we follow like this (credit Jess Joyce): 

Then within each piece of content, we include calls-to-action to download an asset that’s related to the content the reader is consuming. 

We highlight the CTA in a different color and design to stand out from the body text. CTAs are placed within each third of the article. 1st, 2nd and last 3rd of the article.   

Before we hit publish, we run it through our quick and final checklist

  1. Is the content great? Is it better than the top 10 search results for the target keyword? 
  2. Is it optimized for search engines using SEO best practices? 
  3. Does it include contextual CTAs to capture email addresses?

Yes? Ok. Let's ship it!

Now, we are ready to publish and drive a massive amount of traffic to each post. 

Step #3: Pay for Massive Distribution and Retarget Audiences with Free Trial CTAs

Content Distribution

This is where most content marketing teams fall down. 

They invest the time and resources to publish great content, but either don't get enough people to read it or don't get the right audience to read it. 

Consider these 3 scenarios below. I will walk you through each in detail.

Control Scenario illustrates the average cost and return of publishing a single piece of organic content.

Scenario A illustrates the average cost and return of promoting a single piece of content via paid distribution (promote in month 1).

Scenario B illustrates the average cost and return of not paying to promote your content, but instead publishing 10 additional pieces of content and waiting to rank for organic traffic (cumulative traffic over 12 months).

For the Control Scenario, on average, it costs us $500 to publish 1 piece of content ($50/hr * 10 hours). 

On average, you see 1,000 unique visitors over 12 months from a new organic piece of content (~100 visitors/mo after 2 months to get ranked). 

Ok, so you convert 1% of those visitors to a free trial = 1,000*0.01= 10 trials. 

And you have a best-in-class trial -> paid conversion rates of 20% at $50/user/mo. 

That piece of content brought you 2 paid subscribers.

Optimistically, each has a lifetime value (LTV) of ~$1,417 = $50/user/mo x 85% gross margin / 3% monthly churn rate.

Multiply that by 2 paid subscribers to get a total LTV of $2,833. You divide that by $500 (cost of the piece of content). That’s a 5.7X CAC:LTV ratio. Very nice! 

Keep in mind. There are a lot of hard to achieve assumptions in there like the best in class trial to paid conversion, churn rate, arpu... etc.

That being said. What happens if rather than producing 10 more pieces of content for $500 each (illustrated in Scenario B), we spend those budget dollars to distribute the content? 

$500/piece of content x 10 = $5,000 for content distribution. 

We use Taboola and Outbrain to publish our content across media sites like CNN, The Washington Post, BBC, Bloomberg, ABC, NBC, and many others. You have seen ads like this before: 

The average cost-per-click for Outbrain and Taboola is $0.30 per click. 

We take the $5,000 budget, divide it by $0.30 CPC to calculate the amount of traffic. 

That’s 16,666 visitors. The equivalent of 16.5 years of organic traffic. 

So, going back to our assumptions. The traffic tends not to be as high quality as organic traffic, so we assume 0.75% convert into trials instead of 1%. 

That’s 123 trials + the 10 organic trials = 133 trials total.

Multiply that by a lower conversion rate to a paid subscriber. Say 15% instead of 20%. That equals 19 paid subscribers. 

19 paid subscribers x $1,417 LTV = $26,917 LTV

For a $26,917 LTV / $5,500 CAC = 4.9x CAC:LTV ratio. 

And the beauty is that we acquired all of those paid subscribers in 1 month (except for the 2 organic subscribers), instead of having to wait 12 months.

We didn’t have to wait 12 months for all of the organic traffic to accumulate! 

Next, it gets even better. We use retargeting ads to bring our highest quality traffic back.

Retargeting Ads

Retargeting ads are often misunderstood and poorly utilized. Here's a quick visual for how it works (credit Unbounce): 

Visitor goes to your website. Visitor leaves. Visitors sees your retargeting ad as they browse other websites. Visitor returns to your website. Pretty simple.

However, companies make a very dumb mistake with retargeting. They send visitors back through the same experience that didn't originally convert them.

For example, think about this very common sequence of events:

  1. Visitor visits your homepage
  2. Visitor leaves (doesn't convert to a lead, trial or sale)
  3. Visitor sees your retargeting ad as they are browsing the web
  4. Click on your ad, which takes them back to the homepage
  5. Visitor leaves again.

When information on a page isn't compelling enough to convert a visitor on their first visit, why send them back to the same place? 

We retarget visitors to move them along the buyer journey. NOT to send them through the same experience they've already had.

We retarget with 3 different experiences:  

  1. Tactical Case Studies Based on Cluster Content (long-form, detailed product screenshots)
  2. Marketing Promotions Related to Cluster Content (webinars, offers, assets)
  3. Start Free Trial Calls-to-Action

We use Google Display, Facebook and Linkedin for retargeting.

Between Outbrain, Taboola, Google Display Network, Facebook, Linkedin and Google Search ads, visitors start to feel like we are EVERYWHERE!  

We spend $250K/mo on these campaigns.  

This is exactly how we grew to 500,000 monthly visitors that convert into 15,000 new trials per month

Keep in mind. We are venture-backed and have raised over $30 million in venture capital.

Not every company has that luxury. 

So, how do we get these free trials to refer their friends and eventually pay us money? I'll explain.

Step #4: Give Trial Users Free Product Credits for Inviting Friends

Product-Led Growth

We are one of the original product-led SaaS companies, before anyone coined the term "PLG".

When a user starts a free trial of our product, our goal is to get them to their “aha” moment as quickly as possible. AND then, get them to invite their friends.

This image visualizes the user journey well (credit Lean Discovery Group): 

And this image visualizes how they fit into our funnel and flywheel motion.

The PLG tactics we use in our free trial are now commonly used for best-in-class SaaS companies.

The machine works as follows

  1. Authenticate your email via Google or Microsoft.
  2. Answer onboarding survey (guides user experience + collects lead data).
  3. Get dropped into guided tour (i.e. follow these steps to get to your aha moment).
  4. Use free product credits.
  5. Get more free product credits by inviting your friends.

Step 5 is what drives our viral coefficient. The K-Factor. 

Calculated as # of invites sent per user x conversion rate to user. 

For every new user, at our peak, our k-factor was 0.6 (3 invites * 20% conversion rate). 

Which means for every 2 trial users, we would get 1 more at no cost. 

A K-factor of 1 or greater is viral. Below 1 is not viral. 

We weren’t viral, but we had compounding growth. 

To date, we have had over 1.6 million trial users.   

 So, how did we convert all of these free trials into paid subscribers?

Step #5: Drive Trial Engagement and Adoption to Convert Into Paid Subscribers

Once you get a user into your product, convincing them to pay isn’t easy. 

These are the 4 tactics we used:

  1. Email nurture campaigns
  2. In-product notifications
  3. 1-many webinar trainings 
  4. Self-service product university training videos

Here’s why they work. 

User Onboarding Email Nurture Campaigns

We use email nurture campaigns to drive users to features that will help them accomplish the job they hired our product to do for them. 

We use the data from the onboarding survey flow to inform which sequence a user gets dropped into.   

The illustration below highlights where user onboarding email nurture campaigns (red arrow) fit into an overall b2b lead nurturing strategy.

Which is then paired with in-product notifications. 🔔

In-Product Notifications

I know you have experienced in-product notifications. Some are really valuable and helpful. Others, you try to find the X mark to close as quickly as possible. 

We try to make ours as contextually relevant and helpful as possible.

We use a tool called Chameleon to manage our in-product notifications. It’s a great tool, but there are many great tools that can help you do this. 

Our general rule of thumb for notifications is to tell a story and get them to take action. 

Aka click X button to accomplish Y action. This then advances the journey to the next value add along their journey of accomplishing the job to be done. 

1-Many Webinar Trainings

We all learn in different ways. Ever heard of the Learning Pyramid? 

The model is commonly shown in visual form as a pyramid (see below)

The active forms of learning with high percentage learning retention make up the base of the pyramid and the passive forms of learning with low percentage learning retention make up the tip (credit CPD). 

Our self-guided resources for our users are designed to provide multiple methods of learning to serve the varying preferences of our target audiences.

1 to many webinar training are simply a way for 1 person on our Customer Success team to provide tactical training on how to use our product in certain ways. 

We can have 100+ people on these webinars. Making it a very high leverage activity. 

At the end, we open it up for questions. A discussion can occur to get user questions answered. 

It works great!   

And lastly… 

Self-service product university training videos

We built a University! 

It’s a resource on our website with dozens of videos that briefly (2-3 mins long) walk a user through how to use high-value features and achieve the most common use cases. 

This took a long time for us to build. ClickUp does a great job at this and we used their experience for inspiration.

Warning: it can be challenging to maintain a university of videos as your product evolves and workflows change.

So, just be aware of what you’re getting into long term. 

There’s a saying in marketing. 

“Don’t start something, you’re not willing to continue.” 

Between those 4 tactics, we convert our core free trial user at a 25% rate from trial to paid. 

For all other users, we average a 10-15% trial to paid subscriber conversion rate within 45 days from trial start date. 

There’s then a long-tail of conversions as they roll onto our free plan forever.

Ultimately, this strategy and combination of tactics led us to produce $40,000 of new monthly recurring revenue.

Not just once. But month after month. 

Now it’s your turn  

Every high-growth B2B SaaS business is built on high-quality traffic and a compounding flywheel. 

Try this strategy for yourself with a small budget allocation. 

Collect the performance data and analyze whether it can work for you. 

Get started on your own by following these steps next:

  1. Get aligned on your goals
  2. Define your ideal customer profile and buyer personas
  3. Make your product offering clear
  4. Highlight your unique selling proposition
  5. Map out your flywheel
  6. Map out your buyer journey
  7. Document your go-to-market plan
  8. Make a plan for each channel
  9. Build creative and content
  10. Launch!

Download our Go-to-Market Playbook to access all of the systems and frameworks we used to scale our B2B SaaS company.