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How I’m Putting Constraints Into Marketing My SaaS

There are a million and one ways to market your SaaS product.

And there is no right or wrong way to do it. Or a silver bullet that will work no matter what you’re trying to promote.

Plus, a lot of the so-called “gurus” say. “Figure out what’s working, and do more of that”.

Thanks for that insight genius, but I kind of know that already.

It’s finding one or two things that work that is the hard part.

Because there are so many options, platforms, tips, advice, courses. Strategies, techniques and tactics to try out. It’s impossible to commit enough time and energy to test them all, to find one that works.

This is why adding constraints is so important.

You need to be able to filter a lot of the noise out.

This helps you remove some, even many of the options out there. Allowing you to look at what’s left and start weighing up the pros and cons of each.

You want to be able to focus on one or two things and do them in volume. Review the results you’re getting and get good, very good at that narrow thing.

It isn’t about going broad, it’s about going deep with a few things.

Marketing My SaaS Businesses: The What and Who

So. I’ve two SaaS businesses that I’m trying to get out into the world.

As well as some products that I promote under my personal brand. But they are on the back burner. I want to focus on growing the SaaS businesses. Focusing on the one that has the highest potential revenue number.

This is why adding constraints to how you market your SaaS is so important.

With the demands of coding, customer support, accounts and admin. You may already have time constraints forced on you.

It’s then vital that you make the most of the time that you’ve devoted to marketing your SaaS

Here’s a bit of background about each of my SaaS products and who my “ideal” customer is.

Elementary Analytics

Elementary Analytics is a web app that I’ve built from scratch.

Born out of my own frustration running another business. It’s a dashboard that pulls together marketing data from different sources. So you can see campaign data on a single screen, with simple KPIs to track performance.

I’ve also built a way to create read-only client dashboards and a one-click reporting service as well.

If you don’t deal with marketing data. Then it may sound a little boring to you.

I was the same until I started building it. Now I’m a data geek as well as a coding geek.

So, who is Elementary Analytics for?

Well, this is why adding constraints is becoming so important. At the time of writing this post, I don’t have an “ideal customer avatar”.

It could help a lot of different people, but here are the 3 “target audiences” that I’ve come up with.

  1. Small marketing agency owners, with between 0-10 employees
  2. Marketing managers or people who work in marketing, in a business with 10-50 employees
  3. Small business owners with 1-5 employees.

If I tried to get in front of all these people. It could be a massive undertaking.

It could be very confusing. That’s why I need to narrow down the who and the what.

BAITCAMP

I love to go fishing.

In the lockdown of 2020. I was chatting with the owner of Carrd. He coaxed me into combining a hobby (my love of fishing), with my professional skills (coding). To come up with a side project. Which then evolved into my second business.

BAITCAMP is a mobile app that helps fishermen record fishing trips and plan future ones.

It’s available to download on iPhone and Android. I’ve also built a forum that sits alongside the apps and created a Shopify store to sell branded Merch.

I’m hoping to grow it into its own fishing brand.

Figuring out who BAITCAMP was for was a little easier.

I can use myself as the target.

So I’m trying to get BAITCAMP in front of men, aged between 30 and 55, who like to go fishing in their spare time. They’re married and work a more traditional 9-5 job, with some disposable income.

Why is this important?

Well, it helps to add marketing constraints around the brand.

The Paradox of Choice in SaaS Marketing

There are too many options available to you.

Too many things to learn and understand.

What happens, is you end up in analysis paralysis. Trying to research everything you can. Apply what you are learning and build on it. But you end up going nowhere because there is too much going on.

For example, depending on what marketing advice you’ve heard you should focus on the following:

Email marketing. Content marketing. Social Media Marketing. Guerilla Marketing. Influencer Marketing. Search Engine Marketing. Affiliate Marketing.

OK. That sounds like a lot of high-level stuff. Why don’t I get into the weeds and try out some tactics?

Right. What does that look like? Here’s what you should try:

Paid advertisement. SEO. Cold outreach. Warm outreach. Video content. Written content. Blogging. Vlogging. Podcasting.

Does all this sound familiar?

I know, I’m going to extremes.

But let’s take blogging, and written content for example. Like this post. Even if you think you are adding a constraint, things expand.

Once I’ve written a post, where do I want it to appear and rank? Google, Bing, Duck Duck Go?

Where do I republish it? Reddit, LinkedIn, Medium, Quora, IndieHackers?

Where do I share it? Facebook groups, Twitter, LinkedIn, Subreddits, Hackernews?

Going down a narrow path can still lead you onto a wide-open expanse of options again.

Why Constraints? Less is More

Listening to a recent podcast with Tim Ferriss interviewing Noah Kagan. They explained that constraints are a great thing. Because it leads to creative solutions.

No money to run paid ads? You need to think of other ways to get in front of thousands of people.

Don’t know how to set up a blog? Find a platform that allows you to create written content and distribute it.

Don’t have a list of people’s email addresses? Come up with a free offer to put out there and start building a list.

Constraints are a good thing. The downstream tends to be creative solutions to a problem.

Parkinson’s Law

Parkinson’s law is the observation that the duration of a task expands to fill its allotted time span, regardless of the amount of work to be done.”

So how is this relevant to marketing a SaaS product?

Well, if you are trying loads of different strategies to see what works. And you haven’t given yourself a deadline to get things done.

You will end up trying loads of different things. That could take days, weeks, or even months to get up and running with.

Which means, you will do small amounts of a lot of tactics. That won’t give you enough feedback to see if something is working, and what you need to improve to move forward with that tactic.

Let’s look at a fitness example.

You have a goal of being able to run 10 km in under 40 minutes. Benchpress your own body weight. Be able to do a back flip, and be flexible enough to do the side splits.

Do you think you’ll be able to train to achieve all those at once?

If you can you’ll have zero time for anything else.

You need to pick a goal, a target, then train and get better at that discipline to work towards a goal.

The same goes for marketing your SaaS.

Pareto Principle

I love this concept.

The Pareto Principle (also known as the 80/20 rule) states that for many outcomes, roughly 80% of consequences come from 20% of causes.

It can be applied to almost anything.

So how does this relate to marketing?

Let’s say you’ve written 100 blog posts, and they are ranking well in Google’s search results.

What will happen is that 20 of those blog posts will get 80% of the clicks on the search results. Taking people to those posts and your website.

For my blog. It’s more like 90/10. I’ve got a handful of blog posts and articles that get 90% of my search impressions and clicks.

This may sound daunting and very restrictive.

But that’s the point.

If a lot of your effort is wasted anyway. Try to cut it out at the source by not committing to it in the first place.

Yes, it’s hard to figure out what the 20% will be.

If you’ve got a list of 100 options. You can get rid of 80 of those options. Yes, the ones that are left will be “best guesses”. But you only need a few to gain traction to start winning.

Now, I’m going to blow your mind further.

You apply the Pareto Principle to itself.

So 20% of your effort will give you 80% of your results. Now take 20% of 20, which is 4. Then take 80% of 80 which is 64.

That means 4% of your efforts will give you 64% of your results.

So you can apply even more constraints, go narrower still and still win big.

Putting Marketing Constraints into Action

So, it’s all well and good, me telling you to put constraints on yourself.

How do you do that?

Because there are a raft of marketing strategies. There is also a raft of ways to constrain yourself too. Plus, it can all depend on what goals you have for your SaaS startup.

Again, there’s no right or wrong answer.

What I’m going to run through is how I’ve thought about applying constraints to my marketing. Also, I’m all about the ROI, so I may put a constraint on myself that isn’t great in the short term. Hopefully, it will be in the medium and long term.

Let’s run through my thought process.

Start By Picking a Medium

Now, I’ve made this mistake over and over.

And still get caught up in the shiny object syndrome.

But picking one, maybe two mediums to focus on as the basis of your marketing could be the key. Trying to master too many things means you master none of them. That’s what we want to avoid.

So, what do I mean by medium?

Well, it’s one of the following:

  • Text
  • Imagery
  • Video
  • Audio

Now, there can be a lot of crossover. Text and written content can also be used as part of or alongside images. Video and audio have a huge crossover as many podcasters are now recording their podcast. So they can push them out to additional platforms like YouTube.

So, how do you pick one?

Well for me, I like reading books and blogs. And I have a goal to improve my writing. So, my first constraint is to focus on producing the written word as a priority.

This may not work for you.

You may not like writing, but are an amazing speaker, that doesn’t like being on camera. So, audio seems like a great choice for you.

Output: Long-form vs Short-form

Even though you’ve now picked a medium to focus on.

There are still more marketing constraints to think about.

For text-based marketing, do you write long blogs? Or go very short and focus on X/Twitter. Or somewhere in the middle with long-form LinkedIn or Facebook Posts?

Video content can give you a similar headache. Do I focus on long-form videos? Or do very short and snappy content. Again which platform(s) do I focus on?

Distribution

I remember chatting to a marketing agency owner friend on a podcast I used to host. Talking about content creation in particular. Our old friend the 80/20 rule popped up. He suggested that you spend 20% of your time, creating the content. Then 80% of your time distributing it.

So getting things in front of people is the biggest challenge we face.

Before I carry on. I want to share something I’ve said a lot when heading up software teams. When the business is asking us to focus on too many projects.

“If everything is a priority, nothing is a priority”

The same goes for the distribution of your SaaS marketing.

So you need to spend 80% of your time on distribution. But again we need to apply the 80/20 rule. You need to pick a handful of distribution channels. Sometimes a single channel is enough to get your marketing in front of people.

Let’s take long-form written content as our example. Where do you publish and promote it?

One place could be Medium. It’s an easy platform to get up and running with your content. And it has lots of publishers that are looking for content. They will then share posts directly with their readership.

A win-win in my eyes.

A word of warning with distribution though. You need to make sure there are enough eyeballs for you on a channel. And that your “ideal customer” spends time there.

Don’t Shout Into The Void

Constraints are great.

But you need to make sure the constraints you put in place. Don’t end up with you “shouting into the void.”

In other words, the people who are viewing your marketing efforts. Don’t give a shit with what you are saying.

A great example of this is my fishing brand BAITCAMP.

I love LinkedIn, it’s a good platform. But I’ve never seen any talk about fishing on there. Yes, I could create content to find business professionals who like fishing. But it seems like pushing water uphill.

What I’ve found is a lot of people post images of the fish they’ve caught on Instagram.

So for me. Promoting BAITCAMP using visuals on Instagram seems like a smart thing to do.

Don’t Do What You Hate

Now, I’m all about doing hard things.

Getting out of my comfort zone and doing things I don’t want to do.

I start my mornings at 5 AM with a cold plunge. Then a workout. It’s hard and sometimes I don’t want to do either.

But if you’re trying to reduce the number of options available to you. To put in place constraints to hand-crank focus and creativity. Removing options that you’d hate to do seems like a smart strategy.

For me, I hate getting cold emails.

So, I don’t want to send cold emails to try and find the first 100 customers for my SaaS. I would rather spend time getting good at other marketing tactics to get in front of people.

I’m not saying cold outreach is bad.

I’ve done and will do cold outreach in the future.

At the time of writing this post. I’ve got a friend who has launched a cold outreach service for businesses. He is running a campaign for me to try and get users onto Elementary Analytics.

But it’s something I’m not focusing my time and energy on.

So, if you want a very quick way to cut out 50% or more of your options? Cross off things you’d hate to do and can’t see yourself doing for the long term.

ROI, Short-Term Wins vs The Long Game

You won’t like to hear this!

Your time is the only non-renewable resource in the Universe.

With that said, we need to act with that in mind.

You aren’t sure what is going to give you the best ROI, return on investment. Everything is a best guess. But you need to put a plan in place and think that if you spend X amount of time on something. That it is going to give you a return.

Now this is where it can get messy.

Quick Win

Do you want a quick win? Or do you want something with an unlimited upside from the effort you put in?

A win in the short term and to hit your goals playing the long game?

Then there is the middle ground.

To give you an example of what I’m doing to try and grow a SaaS startup.

This is a great example of the constraints I am talking about.

I’ve got a small budget of £200 a month to test out a single paid ads campaign, on a single platform every month. Each test points people to a sales funnel that I’ve built. The goal is to get the funnel to break even on ads spend so I’m not out of pocket each month. It also means I’m getting people either to use the software or at least build my email list.

This is my “Short term win” strategy.

Long Game

Alongside that. Every week I write one or more educational and informative, ever-green blog posts. The aim is to get them to rank on Google Search, which sends traffic to the website for months, if not years into the future.

This is my “long game” strategy.

Then, my medium-term play is to share both the sales funnel and blog posts to social media. Focusing on Facebook Groups and LinkedIn. Turning the posts into Infographic and shorter form text posts. Again, to try and get people to my site. In turn to register for my SaaS.

I’m trying to get the highest ROI I can. From the few things that I want to improve on.

That’s the power of constraints.

The Journey Ahead: Hypothetical Outcomes and Goals

You will have noticed I’ve not talked about goals, numbers or targets.

Well, at this point it can be hard to determine.

You’re making a hypothetical guess that something will work. So you can’t attach any hard and fast numbers yet. Let’s say, you want to make back £2 for every £1 you spend on ads.

You have no idea how that is going to look. Until you start testing, learning and adapting what you are doing.

What I’m finding in the early days it’s about a process of learning. Regardless of whether something is a success or a failure.

Going back to our PPC example, you may have to spend, well lose £1000. Before you’ve got enough data and knowledge to start breaking even on ad spend.

Case Study: Marketing My SaaS Businesses Constraints In Action

This is all well and good.

But what does this look like in the real world? I’m still learning and figuring all this out.

Here are the hypotheses and constraints I’ve applied to my businesses.

I’ve got a “digital whiteboard” that these are on to remind me to focus on them and not get distracted.

Elementary Analytics

Short Term: Paid ad campaigns. Focusing on Facebook and TikTok. Getting people to a downloadable tool I’ve built. In return for their email address building a list of people. Then to try and introduce the SaaS product as a complete solution to their needs.

Long Term: SEO and long-form blog posts. To start ranking in Google to get a consistent and growing flow of traffic to the site.

Medium Term: Take the blog posts and create images or shorter-form content to share to Facebook Groups and on LinkedIn. Some images will also be put on Pinterest as another consistent source of traffic.

BAITCAMP

Short Term: Create lots of memes, funny images and jokes as images to be posted on Facebook and Instagram and shared into relevant Facebook groups. The goal is to grow a following of fishermen on both platforms.

Long Term: SEO and medium-sized blog posts. A combination of entertaining (scary fish from around the world) and educational (best baits to use) content. To start ranking in Google to get a consistent and growing flow of traffic to the site.

As you can see. There is a lot of crossover in terms of SEO focus. That’s because I’m constraining myself to produce written content. To get good and creative with that medium.

Embracing Marketing Constraints: A Mindset Shift

I encourage you to start looking at constraints as a good thing.

They aren’t limitations but opportunities.

It’s a way to streamline focus and start getting better and better at a few things. Then you can start stacking other skills, once you’ve won, and won BIG.

Constraints also force innovation and creativity. This then starts setting you apart from everyone else, and your competition.

There are more and more things fighting for people’s attention. Being able to get the attention is becoming a superpower.

I challenge you to put as many constraints on your marketing for the next 6-12 months and see what happens.

I’ll let you know how I’m getting on too.

Conclusion: Putting Constraints Into Marketing My SaaS

So why it is important to start putting constraints on how you market your SaaS startup?

Well, it prevents analysis paralysis. Being able to execute well on a few things will move you forward faster than spreading yourself to thin.

It will help with creativity to get in front of the right people. As well as improving one or two skills that then you can stack on top of each other.

I’ve heard that focus stands for: Follow One Course Until Success. Constraints help you do this. Focusing on two things will help you get so good at them, that you won’t be able to fail.

For me, consistency is the key to everything. If you don’t narrow your focus. You won’t be able to stick to a few things long enough to learn, adapt and WIN at them.

Good luck.

Wait, want more tips & tricks? Yes, please!

Who Is Phil Hughes

I am a coder, content creator & software consultant for start-ups and FTSE 100 companies. I am obsessed with productivity, self-improvement, and building a lifestyle business.
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