The thesis consists of these parts; Introduction, Literature Review, Research Methodology, Recommended digital marketing strategy for the case company, Benchmarking and Conclusion. The research and writing have been carried out during spring, summer and autumn of 2017.
1.2 The case company and the product
During the interview (Interview, Appendix 4),  claimed that Practify – a SaaS startup in Hungary was founded in 2011 when 4 training consultants realised that no matter how the training was organised; only a few percent of the participants remembered the information.
Thus, they created a product which is a training follow-up software and methodology for digesting the information that the training participants gain through gamification. It can be used for the projects, such as educational training, project management, sales development, lean management, as well as leadership onboarding programs. The company claims that this gamified software aims to make the learning process more effective. The platform is cloud-based and accessible from PC, laptops, tablet and mobile. When participants start the competition, they are inspired to go forward and achieve more which leads to improvement of different skills (Szertics, 2016).
1.3 Purpose and Objectives
The case company has realised that in order to be competitive in today’s business environment, it has to have a constant and strong digital presence. However, currently, the case company does not have a digital strategy. The primary goal of this thesis is to explore and use different digital marketing tools available for a startup.
The company’s main goal is to become known as a training expert in the SaaS market. Now the company implements activities in the countries, such as the UK, Portugal, Germany, Serbia and Croatia. As they provide B2B services, Practify’s specific target market is multinational, consultancy and other companies who organise training courses (Interview, Appendix 4).
To explore and discuss different digital marketing tools that Practify and other SaaS startups can use to grow their business is the main goal of this research. The findings will lead to developing recommendations for the case company, taking into consideration current online marketing theories, earlier studies, benchmarking and the interview with the company representative. After successful implementation of these tools, the company’s online visibility is planned to increase and, therefore, a necessary audience will be created. This will lead to generating sales leads and which, in turn, could lead to actual closed deals.
Ideally, every strategy should have a measurable objective and for Practify’s digital marketing strategy that very objectives are the following;
− generate traffic
− improve online presence
− increase revenue
1.3 Research questions
This thesis aims to study and deliver answers to the following questions while considering
the applicability to the case company. The main question of this research is;
– How can SaaS startups be promoted by using digital marketing tools?
Also, the thesis is purposed to answer the following questions;
– What kind of digital marketing tools exists?
– What are the components of digital marketing strategy that SaaS startups can follow to promote the company successfully and cost-effectively?
– Which benchmarks Practify can follow?
1.4 Risk and delimitations
As there is a continuous technological development in the digital landscape, therefore, the tools and concepts presented in the thesis could be outdated after some time. It means that because digital marketing has been developing ceaselessly, methods that work today might not work tomorrow. Therefore, the tools need to be improved continuously as well and adjusted to a newly available data. On the other hand, customer behaviour changes and this factor needs to be taken into consideration as well.
Then, because digital marketing is a constantly developing field, this research will focus on the tools that can have a real impact on the company case. In spite of the fact, there are components of digital marketing that can positively affect to Practify’s digital marketing strategy, those are not discussed in detail in this work because of being complex. An example here is the website which itself could be a separate thesis topic. Thus, I will assume that the latter is created according to the latest technological standards and in accordance with the company brand, goals, vision and overall marketing strategy.
Furthermore, in most cases, implementing a digital marketing strategy can be time-consuming and financially challenging for a startup which does not have enough financial means to hire a full-time specialist. Thus, the tasks need to be distributed among the existing employees to spend less time, effort and money . Hence, the success of the digital marketing strategy will depend on their dedication and consistency of implementation.
2. LITERATURE REVIEW
The literature section of the thesis will look into the different aspect of several Digital marketing tools which were chosen due to their suitability for SaaS Startups. After reading this chapter, the reader will have a solid understanding of Content Marketing, Search Engine Optimization, Email Marketing, Social Media Marketing, Affiliate Marketing, Google AdWords, Monitoring tools as well as the concepts of a SaaS model and a Startup.
The term startup can be defined in different ways and depends on the author’s general understanding of the topic and the experience in a particular sector. According to the Business Dictionary (Business Dictionary, 2017) startup is: “Early stage in the life cycle of an enterprise where the entrepreneur moves from the idea stage to securing financing, laying down the basic structure of the business and initiating operations or trading.” Thus, the startup is placed into the Learning phase of the Sigmoid Curve (see the figure 1) when a lot of resources, knowledge as well as time needs to be invested (Tolan, 2009).
Steve Blank expressed (Forbes, 2012) the abovementioned thought as well and added: “A startup is a temporary organisation designed to search for a repeatable and scalable business model.”
Neil Blumenthal told Forbes’ Natalie Robehmed (Forbes, 2013) that startup is “A company working to solve a problem where the solution is not obvious, and success is not guaranteed.”
Here the keywords, such as growth, temporary, risky organisation are the identifiers and differentiating elements. To be more precise, small startups have big dreams because they offer a product/service that currently is not offered in the market. Their motivation is money, popularity, and success. The latter is obviously the desired stage of every single startup which goes parallel with the growth.
2.1.1 The importance and impact of startups
Startups are important to the business ecosystem due to the following reasons and more:
– In the long term, startup companies can create a large number of new jobs while affecting positively to the country’s economic situation. To be more precise, investing into startups will create more employment and demand for more skilled workers. (Kauffman Foundation, July 2010)
– Startup companies are one of the most suitable sources of inventions and consequently the best mechanism for commercialising technological and other novelties. They can be integrated with the large companies to assist them in keeping their competitive advantage. (Shabangu, 2014)
– In addition to the economic development, startups also affect positively on increasing knowledge-based society. Creating a competitive environment due to innovations, they create a healthy economy and motivate society. (ibid.)
2.2 Software as a Service Model (SAAS)
“Software as a service is a model of software deployment whereby a provider licenses an application to customers for use as a service on demand” (Tyrvainen, 2010, p. 117).
“SaaS is a way of delivering applications over the Internet – as a service. Instead of installing and maintaining software, you simply access it via the Internet, freeing yourself from complex software and hardware management” (Salesforce.com, 2017).
According to the Figure 2, Software as a Service is a multilayer model, which consists of an infrastructure as a service (called IaaS) and platform as a service (called PaaS) and these are complemented by the applications developed and owned by the service provider. (Apprenda, 2017)
On-demand access to computing resources is done by networks, servers, storage and application programming interface. Infrastructure, various operating systems and hosted applications operate together due to PaaS. The latter is created when IaaS is provided by middleware and connects the application code with run-time infrastructure. (Kepes, 2017)
The customers use the software on the subscription base irrespective of location. They receive the Service Level Agreement with the negotiated conditions in the contract. The standard package of SaaS applications they receive is provided to a maximum number of customers with minimum customization. (ibid.)
2.2.1 Benefits and Risks of SaaS
According to Sylos (Sylos, 2013), some of the advantages of SaaS model are the following;
– One of the major advantages for the SaaS customer comes under the lower Total Cost of Ownership. Having a SaaS provider means to lower IT costs for hardware and software. Subscription is needed for SaaS applications as well as people are needed to manage all the process.
– Another cost aspect is related to the payment model which assumes that customer is charged for the “consumed” services (pay-per-use, subscription-based, etc.).
– The next advantage is that there is no need for customers to download or update the software from time to time because it is all done by the SaaS provider.
– An increase of bargaining power of SaaS customers and subsequent freedom to change or switch is the next advantage of it. SaaS vendor can offer the SaaS application independent of the vendor‘s location, but also independent of the customer‘s size.
– Last but not the least, many SaaS providers offer customization possibilities to reach the customers directly. It is possible to integrate with existing ERP, or other business productivity systems thought the provided APIs as well.
Freibrum claims that, in spite of the abovementioned advantages, risks associated with Saas-based delivery should not be underestimated. Here are several of those risks (Freibrum, 2015);
– The security issues together with data privacy and data reliability continue to dominate the statistics on SaaS disadvantages. The customer’s data which is confidential will reside and become available in the provider’s cloud-based infrastructure.
– Because of a technical problem with the unavailability of a SaaS application, the user’s business operations might be seriously harmed.
– Another issue can be the absence of a plan B for the situation if the cloud software “went dark”, and the user cannot access the data.
2.3 Digital Marketing Tools
Smith has defined digital marketing as “the use of digital technologies to create an integrated, targeted and measurable communication which helps to acquire and retain customers while building deeper relationships with them” (Smith, 2007).
The channel used in Digital Marketing is purely in digital form. To be more specific, channels outside the internet are not excluded, but other means and tools by which digital marketing communication can be transmitted are taken into consideration as well (Karjaluoto 2010, 13). In other words, all-digital channels that are in digital form can be used as communication tools for Digital Marketing. The latter is referred to the personalised and participatory media that is used for communicating with the customers. Customers here are not just active targets but contributors of the marketing communications (Wertime & Fenwick 2008, 26-31).
Digitalization and online presence created a tough competition between companies. Thus, having just social networking accounts, such as Facebook, Linkedin is not enough for a digital marketing success. Instead, it can be reached only with a well organised digital marketing strategy based on the company’s mission and create value for customers.
Figure 3 illustrates a simplified version of the main idea of digital marketing. Both digital and traditional marketing frequently follow a particular process, which is called a digital marketing funnel. Firstly, consumers get found by achieving their attention on the first level of the funnel using different tools, such as Blogs, PPC, Social media, SEO. The better is the latter, the more traffic a companies’ website generates as a result (Moz Academy, 2017).
In level 2, some of these potential consumers will convert into leads if they are engaged. Afterwards, from these leads, a small portion will further convert to closed sales in level 3. Last but not the least, some of them will become a loyal customer for a startup (ibid.).
Startups can benefit from the idea of the funnel because it is possible to track the funnel process and get useful information about users’ behaviour. For example, conversion rate can be easily presented with the following equation.
Conversion rate = Number of goal achievements / Visitors
For example, if a set e-commerce website receives 5000 views a week through a Google Ad, and these viewers lead to 200 immediate closed sales, the conversion rate, in this case, is 200/5000*100% = 4% (Google Adwords 3.2, 2016).
Due to the limited financial means, startups can use digital marketing tools to become visible and to be closer to the targeted audience. In the upcoming sections, different digital marketing tools and their importance for startups will be discussed.
2.3.1 Content Marketing
According to Steimle, “Content marketing is essence marketing in a way that provides useful, relevant and valuable information instead of the more traditional marketing taglines, which often lack meaning or foundation” (Steimle, 2014). Content Marketing Institute claims that “Content marketing is the strategic approach that is focused on creating and distributing valuable, relevant, and consistent content to attract and retain a clearly-defined audience” (Content Marketing Institute, 2017).
The idea of Content Marketing is to create pieces of content that attracts people to read, view, or listen to and all these lead to building brand awareness, equity, and authority (McMillar, 2016). Nowadays, Content Marketing is a tool for making a profit through establishment stable customer communication while creating desirable content for the targeted audience. Once communication circle is created, it is easier to deliver the information, promote new ideas or simply to inspire, because their attention is already received. Instead of directly advertising a product or service, the content will be valuable enough for the customers to make the brand more visible and authoritative. In other words, Content Marketing is not a direct way to sell a product and have revenue, but if it is done properly similar result will be achieved (DeMers, 2016). According to DeMers (DeMers, 2016), other meaningful advantages that content marketing brings are the following;
– Content Marketing requires less financial means compared with traditional marketing. With a limited budget for marketing, an appealing content will be beneficial for a startup while being shared on different channels of social media and creating goodwill among the target audience.
– Brand visibility is an almost intangible quality in the target audience, but it’s vital if there is a need to increase the customer base. Producing, distributing, and syndicating content increases the degree of familiarity and awareness about the brand.
– Brand Reputation is important because if a startup wants people to buy from them, they need to be able to trust the brand. The latter can be earned through demonstration of the authority, knowledge, expertise, history or relevant content.
– Referral traffic possibility appears when content is being created. Sometimes this is due to the link building pointing back to the website. Every time the users click on that link, they get to the site directly, and this enables to boost the traffic which is again useful for startups.
– Customer Retention, conversion rate, and compounding returns are other types of power that are related to each other, and the startup can earn due to creating the appropriate content for the target group. When a piece of content is being created, it constantly adds value through traffic and brand visibility.
It might be arguable that content marketing is not so necessary and that there are a lot of businesses that are working without even having a website. However, real risk here is the opportunity cost because how much better could profits be if it did have one? It is important to consider that the role of content marketing has been increasing abruptly, due to their compounding returns. This means that if a startup gets involved later, then it sacrifices the potential growth and faces more tough competition. Content creation does not seem problematic or costly. Customers will be engaged with the brand if the latter provides valuable content. This is because any customer needs some kind of content nowadays (Patel, 2017).
2.3.2 Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
SEO is a methodology that can be followed to obtain high-rankings and optimize the websites for engines, namely, Google, Bing, Yahoo and many others (Chris, 2017).
While implementing search engine optimization, the website should be structured in a way that search engines understand. Using mathematical algorithms search engines assume that if a website is well structured and contains valuable information, then it must be more popular and it must be ranked higher. If search engines cannot find the company’s website or a particular content, then the company misses the chance to drive traffic to their website (Fishkin and Moz Blog, 2015). Thus, startups need to put efforts and resources for SEO to affect positively on their digital presence, traffic as well as revenue. For efficiency, both on-page and off-page optimization needs to be implemented.
On-Page optimization also named on-site optimization is about making changes related to (Kent, 2012, p. 107-134);
– code and structure optimization, such as HTML title, meta description, header, image canonical tags, URLs, anchor texts and others.
– the information, relevant displayed content, keywords density and others.
– user and mobile friendly navigation, the speed of the website,
Off-page optimization is about making changes outside of the website, such as (Kent, 2012, p. 285-308);
– link building process, such as creating valuable inbound, reciprocal links
– making connections with external influencers and in social media
– implementing activities if different forums to drive traffic to the website
Effective Search Engine Optimization, when implemented well, could mean high revenue for the business. Here are several reasons why (DeMers, 2015);
– SEO is cost-effective with high reward.
– SEO attracts inbound traffic which affects positively on the conversion.
– Ranking has a positive influence on the website traffic and sales.
– Because a lot of customers search the product before buying it, SEO can build trust among people by increasing the credibility of the brand.
– Some SEO-related tools, such as Google Analytics provides quantitative data to find out the market, analyze the trends, and understand the competitors’ standings.
SEO is about making small changes to parts of the website of a company and these small changes together can have a huge impact on the website performance. Overall, a well-optimized website must be user-friendly, well structured and displayed on the first page for its main keywords.
2.3.3 Email Marketing
According to Rob, “Email marketing is a form of direct marketing that uses electronic mail as a means of communicating commercial or fundraising messages to an audience” (Crossware blog, 2011). Nowadays, there is a correlation between Email marketing, Content marketing and Social media marketing to acquire a customer, increase revenue, generate traffic in a cost-effective way (Murdock, 2012).
For the purpose of this paper, I will focus on SaaS cloud-based solutions. These tools will enable the company to create well-designed messages for the mailing list. Furthermore, it will also enable to monitor email campaigns as well as track information, such as the number of opened, deleted or responded emails.
Chaffey claims that in order to create an effective e-mail marketing campaigns, it is useful to use SOSTAC framework. The latter is a planning framework for marketing campaigns and stands for (Chaffey, 2016);
– Situation analyses (S): Illustrates the present state of the company.
– Objectives (O): Depicts the path in the market that the company follows.
– Strategy (S): Shows how to reach the objectives and how to improve the tactical decision.
– Tactics (T):Answers the question “how exactly do we get there and what happens when?”
– Actions (A): Is part of tactics when particular actions need to be taken for implementing particular steps.
– Control (C): Is the measurement and monitoring of the whole process by using web analytics systems.
According to several authors, there are many metrics that can be used to track results and see if Email marketing campaigns are reaching their goals, such as (Hubspot blog, p. 43-51):
– Hard and soft Bounce rates illustrate the percentage of the total number of sent e-mails which were not delivered to the users’ inbox.
– Delivery rate is the percentage of successfully delivered emails.
– Growth rate reflects how fast a company’s list is increasing.
– Open rate allows measuring the number of opened or viewed e-mails.
– Click-through Rate represents the percentage of the audience that clicked on links included in the email.
– Conversion Rate shows the percentage of people who clicked on a link in the e-mail and completed the desired action, such as filling out a form.
– Unsubscribe rate represents the users who opted-out an e-mail list.
Here are several risks that startups can face while implementing email marketing (Tran, 2012);
– Delivery: There are many auto-protection programs that act as a barrier for the email to be delivered to a user’s inbox. Instead, it considers that an email is spam.
– Unrecognizable: Sometimes there are hundreds of emails received every day. Thus, if the letter does not grab attention, it might be ignored and not opened.
– Too many emails and communication preferences: People have different communication preferences, and some of them can feel unpleasant receiving too many emails which can lead to a downward response rate.
– Technological: To implement an email marketing strategy efficiently appropriate human and technological resources are inevitable.
In spite of the abovementioned risks, startups can benefit from the positive sides of Email Marketing as well (Kevin, 2016);
– Boosting brand awareness: Although the possibility exists that some users might ignore the email, Email marketing is still a great tool to introduce services or products continuously until the targeted customers become aware of it.
– Connect with leads and customers at a more personal level: As messages can be classified by age, purchase history, location and some other factors, Email marketing allow to connect to dormant leads and push them to reconsider the product or service one more time.
– Helps to understand the desired market better: By using A/B testing program, it is possible to explore customers’ behaviour and to buy patterns and find out which type of email content is more effective to be able to create more efficient emails in the future.
2.3.4 Social Media Marketing (SMM)
According to Andreas Kaplan and Michael Haenlein, Social media is a group of Internet-based applications that build on the ideological and technological foundations of Web 2.0 and allow the creation and exchange of user-generated content (Kaplan and Haenlein, 2010).
Social media is an effective tool for startups to create contacts, build desired relationships and boost brand awareness. Safko says that it makes no difference which social media platform is used or in what kind of industry the business carries out its operation, it is all about taking part in a conversation, lead generation and being there with a relationship when the customer wants to purchase. What one should do while implementing social media marketing, is first to listen actively, follow the conversation and then speak while building more trusted relationships which will lead to higher revenue and greater word of mouth (Safko 2012, 4-6.).
According to Hootsuite blog, some of the most used social media networking channels are Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Youtube, Blogs, and Google+ (Fontain, 2016). Thus, they will be introduced and serve as the primary channels in this thesis.
– Facebook was founded in 2004, and today it has over 2 million monthly active users (The Statistics Portal, 2017). It enables people to connect, interact and share with their friends around the world. Organisations can create Business/Like pages on Facebook which allow them to engage with consumers and share information. Facebook can act as a catalyst for the company to improve its social presence, build community, drive traffic to the website, share content, promote products/services as well as position themselves as an expert in the industry (Safko 2012, 31-32).
– Twitter is all about the present, what is happening right now. Tweets have a short lifespan and are forgotten in 24 hours. For businesses, Twitter provides an opportunity to communicate with a large number of people, whether to promote a service or to share information in a particular field. The Twitter community enables companies not only to share information but also take part in industry-related conversations. Furthermore, it is an appropriate tool for doing a market research and being a good listener and then posting information accordingly (Foreman, 2017).
– LinkedIn’s mission is to bring professionals together from all around the world to accelerate their success and make them more productive (LinkedIn, 2017). From the startups’ marketing point, joining LinkedIn provides many possibilities to improve the company’s marketing, develop a relationship, as well as generate a lead. This can be done by joining all possible relevant industry groups and sharing the necessary content.
– Blogging is the easiest and one of the most effective ways to communicate with the target audience. Posts published on a blog need to be promoted via all possible channels. If appropriate information is posted, the number of readers will grow and will expect new blog posts about the company’s insights (Safko, 2012, 164)
– Google Plus is being integrated with Google products more and more, and it is social layer providing significant opportunities for businesses. As Google+ is indexed by Google, it can help to increase the brand’s visibility while affecting on SEO (Shepard, Moz Blog, April 2014).
– YouTube is the solution when a video has been created and should then receive visibility and viewers. YouTube would not be a social media platform unless the users could communicate within while commenting back and forth and replying to the comments (Safko, 2012, 279).
2.3.5 Affiliate Marketing
Brown states that “Affiliate marketing is an online marketing practice in which a business rewards their affiliates for every visitor, user or sale coming from the affiliate marketing efforts” (Brown, 2009). Affiliate marketing programs are considered a win/win situation for the stakeholders. Merchants are rewarded with traffic and sales, and affiliate gain money from redirecting the traffic (Malta, 2006). Also, affiliate programs are considered very scalable, and they allow controlling the marketing costs. This is because the merchant only pays a commission or fee for a resulting action. Affiliate marketing is especially beneficial to small companies because of a limited financial means these companies can invest in marketing. So these companies can take advantage of affiliate networks (Duke, 2017).
There are two affiliate marketing options. One of them is to host an affiliate program and offer an option to interested business partners to sell a product or service on their websites. Here, they would earn a commision of a sale which comes from the affiliate program. The next option is to join an affiliate program and advertise a product on the website (Brown, 2009).
Compensation models for Affiliate Marketing are categorized into three groups (Code Fuel Staff, 2015);
– Per Impression: Based on a number of times users viewed the ads.
– Per Action Action: Based on a number of actions users made. E.g. Downloading a product sheet, purchase and others.
– Pay Per Response or Pay Per Click (PPC): Based on a click.
Here are some types of Affiliate Marketing;
– Banners or Text links: These are placed on the affiliate’s website, and when clicked, redirect the user to the merchant’s website. Banners or text links usually include the name of the company for brand awareness (Pick, 2008).
– Storefronts: Unlike banners described above, here visitors don’t leave the affiliate partner’s website. In this model, a complete online store is offered that can be customized to look like the affiliate website. (Fiore & Collins, 2001).
– Pop-ups: When a banner or link is clicked, a small pop-up window appears with the offer inside. (ibid.).
– Widgets: Can be games, quizzes, content sliders, or other modules to create something unique and very original (aceaffiliates.com, 2011).
– Data feeds: Here all information about products will be provided in a database, including description, pricing, reviews and more. Affiliates can then use all this information to import it onto their websites well as to add thousands of products instantly instead of manually doing this. (Brown, 2009).
– E-mail: Instead of implementing banners and links on a webpage, those could be sent directly to the user’s e-mail address. A big benefit of this could be that if the email is very creative, the e-mail could turn viral and reach many more potential customers (Fiore & Collins, 2001).
– Two-tier programs: This enables Marketers also to get a commision on sales generated by the people they referred to the program. This contributes to enlarging the affiliate network and at the same time creates some communication issues with the second-tier affiliates (Brown, 2009).
– 2.3.6 Google AdWords
– According to Google, “AdWords is Google’s pay-per-click (PPC) advertising solution, which allows businesses to bid on the chance to show ads next to searches on Google.com, right when people are looking for the offer” (Google AdWords, 2017).
– AdWords campaigns can appear on Google Search and Google Display Networks. In Google Search, when someone searches for a keyword or phrase, Google AdWords appears above and to the right of the organic search results. Google Display Network is a collection of partner websites and specific Google websites. Among the Google Network sites, where AdWords ads can appear, are Gmail, YouTube, Google Finance and Blogger (AdWords Help, 2017).
– There are a large number of strategies exist to use efficiently the money invested in AdWords, and that strategy depends on the particular goal of the user. In this research, I will focus on the goal of generating the possible highest number of conversions with a possible lowest cost, by using Google as a search engine.
– A conversion optimization is done by getting a high number of impressions, which means how many times the ad is shown to the right audience. This step is followed by clicking on the ad and performing an action valuable to the business, such as purchasing a book or subscribing to a newsletter or another thing (Esparza, 2016). In the following funnel, the abovementioned process is shown;
Here the advertiser pays when a user clicks on the ad, and this process is similar to taking part in an auction. Bids are put by advertisers on words that might be selected to use as search terms. The position of the ad is affected by the amount of a bid as well as the number of clicks it gets. There is a possibility to put a daily budget and take part in that auction (Patel, 2017). Here is some terminology for AdWords (ibid.);
– Keywords are the search terms that a user utilizes to search for a product or service. Keyword planning can be done with tools, such as Keyword planner, Google Trends and many others.
– Cost-per-thousand impressions (CPM) represent the rate to be charged for every 1,000 times an ad is shown.
– Click through rate (CTR) is the number of clicks that an ad receives divided by the number of times the ad is demonstrated (called impressions). It shows which keyword or ad performs good and which not.
– Cost-per-Click (CPC) is the maximum amount an advertiser wants to pay each time a user clicks on the advertiser’s ad.
– Quality score illustrates how quality score is measured and is specific to Google AdWords.
It is possible to set up AdWords account within several minutes. The account allows to set up 25 campaigns, and each of them can contain up to 100 ad groups. (Google AdWords, 2015)
2.3.7 Google Analytics
Google Analytics is a digital monitoring tool developed by Google. Irrelevant to the business size, industry, geographical location of the business, this is a tool to analyze and track the behaviour of a website visitors (Analytics Help, 2017).
Up to 5 million page views for an account every month it is free of payment. Immediately after the account is set up, a tracking code is received automatically to start experimenting and tracking a website, mobile app or a blog (ibid.).
In spite of the fact that a large number of things is possible to track via Google Analytics (See 3.4.7), there are also risks companies can face with Google Analytics. Here are several of that risks and errors;
– Someone who deletes the cookies will be still tracked, but he/she will be identified as a new visitor to the site which will lead to a not accurate result and show higher new visitor number and lower returning visitor number (G. Maguire, 2015).
– A page refresh is counted as a new page by Google Analytics which results in inflating the pageviews. Consequently, if the refreshed page is the landing page and also the exit page, this means that the Bounce Rates will be higher than the reality (Lee,2017).
– If users share the same computer under the same user account, then it is reported as one unique visit. If someone accesses to the site from different computers, although this is only one unique visitor, it will be reported by Google Analytics as more than 1 unique visitor and will be inaccurate (Hines, 2015).
– Custom, Offline Campaigns are not being tracked and others (G. Maguire, 2015).
This chapter reviewed relevant information about SaaS model, Startups as well as several digital marketing tools; Content, Search Engine Optimization, Email, Social Media, Affiliate, Google AdWords, Advertising, Monitoring tools. As the aim of this research is to identify strategies of how to combine digital media tools to promote a SaaS Startup, it is important to understand the fundamental capacities and the main concepts of these tools.
3.1 Research Questions
The main question of this research is;
– How can SaaS startups be promoted by using digital marketing tools?
Also, the thesis is purposed to answer the following questions;
– What kind of digital marketing tools exists?
– What are the components of digital marketing strategy that SaaS startups can follow to promote the company successfully and cost-effectively?
– Which benchmarks Practify can follow?
3.1 Research aim and method
The main aim of this part of the thesis is to present the reader the research methodology and method used to construct this study. As briefly already stated in the introduction, my research aim was to explore various digital marketing tools and to create an affordable digital marketing guideline for SaaS startups to promote their business digitally.
A case study method is used for this study. According to Yin, “A case study is an empirical inquiry that investigates a contemporary phenomenon within its real-life context; when the boundaries between phenomenon and context are not clearly evident and in which multiple sources of evidence are used” (Yin, 2003, p.13). Research process started with a discussion with the representative of the case company in order to have content that could be beneficial for the company. From the beginning, it was clear that the aim of this thesis was to understand the current digital marketing situation in order to make suggestions how the case company could start to implement effective digital marketing actions.
To help narrow this wide topic for making it realistic and to be able to carry this research within a limited period of time, objectives and questions were set up. Afterwards, an investigation about different methodologies started and the most appropriate research type was selected to answer the research questions. The latter was followed by intensive theory findings of digital marketing, SaaS model and startups. As there were a large number of materials about digital marketing and many digital marketing tools, research narrowed down the digital marketing tools suitable for the case company as well as other SaaS startups.
In this thesis, qualitative research paradigm is applied because it is an efficient method to explain the phenomenon profoundly instead of examining the surface features (Collis and Hussey 2009, p. 300). Qualitative research is basically a non-numeric data or data that have not been quantified and can be a product of all research strategies. It can either range from a short list of responses to open-ended questions in an online questionnaire, face-to-face interview to even more complex data, such as transcripts of in-depth interviews and document analysis (Saunders, 2007: 79). Thus, the aim of this research is to provide a profound look into the set subjects and give suggestions of how things can be done concerning the topic of promotion by using digital marketing. After processing theoretical background themes, a company visit and a face-to-face semi-structured interview were organized with the company representative. A semi-structured interview is predesigned and structured, but it allows some freedom for the researcher to differ from the original structure and questions (Bernard, 2000).
Benchmarking method was used as well for this research. According to Patterson (1996, p.4), benchmarking is the process of comparing different practices to learn beneficial information and then adapt to your own situation. According to Stapenhurst (Stapenhurst, 2009), different types of benchmarking approaches could be applied to meet the desired objectives like internal benchmarking, competitive benchmarking, non-competitive benchmarking and cross-industry
benchmarking. External benchmarking was chosen as a research method. Particularly, cross-industry and within industry benchmarking was implemented in this study mainly because of the significant benefits that the case study company can gain during the process of benchmarking. Several SaaS startups were observed based on the information available publicly. Afterwards, 2 SaaS startups found their place in this research due to their successful digital marketing approach.
Then, the systematic combining of theories, interviews and observed findings to a consistent entity were done. The above mentioned was made in order to meet the research objectives and to give Practify feasible and realistic suggestions for the upcoming actions in the field of digital marketing. The thesis does not suggest any digital marketing action which would not feasible for the case company.