Google and Facebook may dominate the pay-per-click (PPC) advertising world, but with CPC prices increasing every year if you’re looking for leads in the B2B SaaS space then it’s worth exploring some of the other options that exist.
You’ve probably noticed software directories like Capterra, GetApp and Software Advice showing up in the search engine results pages when you search Google for your company’s primary keywords. These directories are owned by Gartner Digital Markets, and their PPC advertising options can be surprisingly effective for B2B SaaS businesses.
The Gartner-owned software directories share some primary characteristics:
- They display lists of business software segmented by product categories (eg: project management software or CRM software).
- Each software product has a profile with a description, a list of key features, product screenshots and customer reviews.
- You can pay to move up towards the top of the product category list, usually by placing a bid for position against other companies.
Visitors to these sites tend to have strong buyer intent and with a little work you can often achieve a good volume of conversions even if you don’t have the budget to get to the very top of the category list. I’ve personally managed hundreds of thousands of dollars of advertising spend through these software directories and I know that with some experimentation and optimization it’s possible to build these channels into an effective paid acquisition loop.
One of the best ways to find and prioritize the best directories and categories for your SaaS business is by searching Google for the common commercial SEO keywords used for your product, and taking note of the software directories that are listed at the top of the results page. There’s a good chance that one or more of the Gartner properties will be towards the top of the results.
How to setup your product listings
After you’ve found the best directory for your product you can create a product profile for your SaaS tool. The Gartner software directories let you create free product profiles that will be listed towards the bottom of your target product category pages. These free profiles are often limited in features (for example, they may not let you display a CTA button to take people directly to your website) and if you want to be higher up on the category list then you’ll need to pay. While a free listing is better than nothing, we’re going to focus on paid listings for this guide.
Product listing tips
While filling out your product listing make sure to take the time to write product description copy that matches the specific product category for the listing. You want to think from the perspective of the potential lead who is viewing your product’s profile for the first time – they’re looking for a tool to help them with achieve a goal, so make sure your descriptions are category specific (for example, if you’re in the project management software category then your description should be project management focused), and are outlining how your product will help get them be successful.
The Capterra admin panel offers reporting for Capterra, Getapp and Software Advice campaigns, including a column for Conversions. To track conversions you’ll need to add their Conversion tracking tag to your success page (the page someone visits directly after performing a conversion). The tracking tag is a small code snippet that you can find in the Gartner admin portal, along with instructions on how best to install it.
If you use more than one of Gartner’s ppc directories then you’ll want to turn on Source Tracking. Source Tracking automatically adds a string of characters to your URLs to help you determine their source, in other words, did the user come from Capterra, Getapp or Software Advice. I usually set the source tracking key to utm_source, a common method that lets Google Analytics and other tools track where a website visitors came from (note: if you want to track Campaign and Medium then you’ll still need to add utm_campaign and utm_medium to any links yourself). You can find out more about Source Tracking in the admin portal.
Most software directories let customers leave product reviews and the Gartner-owned properties are no different; in fact they even share the reviews across the different properties. Collecting positive reviews is definitely an area you’ll want to focus on, as a product with a larger number of reviews is likely to come across as more trustworthy than a product with zero reviews.
While you could always wait and see who will review your product after creating your listing, I like to take a more proactive approach - reach out to some of your happy customers and ask if they can leave a review on your product listing, or (my preferred method) use your NPS or customer feedback tools to create an automated review request process.
One point to keep in mind - even if you truly do have a 5* product, don’t get too hung up if you occasionally get a review that isn’t 5*. As long as reviews are factually correct then they should be on your listing, and you can always write a friendly review response as the vendor providing any additional context that needed. A mix of reviews can actually help improve trust, as a listing with hundreds of purely positive reviews can come across as a bad case of astroturfing.
After the click
The goal of the software profile advertising is to drive traffic to our websites and ultimately, for a user to reach your conversion goal, whether that’s signing up for a free trial, requesting a demo or leaving contact details for your sales team. This makes the landing page hugely important to the success in your campaign - it’s a primary factor in the overall conversion rate which will ultimately decide your CPA, and with it 1) how much you can afford to bid, and 2) how much traffic (and leads) you’ll receive.
The landing page is also a great chance to really differentiate yourself from the competition, and while it’s beyond the scope of this guide to dive too deeply into landing page design, remember: there is a good chance that people will be checking out a few different software options at the same time, so you’ll want to make sure your landing page is compelling.
Through testing and experience I tend to side with the camp who believe you don’t want to send potential leads straight to your homepage, rather you should be creating dedicated landing pages with copy, images and calls to action specifically tailored to each campaign. If you can’t do this easily with your marketing site then it’s worth looking into using a tool like Unbounce or Leadpages,
Make sure the copy on the landing page continues the story that you started telling on your product profile page. Outline the key benefits of your product, add testimonials as social proof, and make sure you have a large, clear call to action (CTA) towards your next step (starting a free trial, requesting a demo etc). It’s worth using a session replay tool like Hotjar on your landing page during the initial testing phase so you can check the behaviour of your leads and then make adjustments to copy and/or design as needed.
The Gartner admin portal lets you set separate bids for each property (Capterra, Getapp, Software Advice) for each of the categories your product is listed in. A higher bid means you’ll be placed higher up the category list, receiving a greater volume of traffic (in theory at least).
The amount you can afford to bid for each property/category is ultimately going to be a function of your:
- Budget (how much can you actually afford to spend in a given month)
- Target Cost Per Acquisition or CPA (Gartner uses CPL or Cost Per Lead within their reporting)
- Visit > Payment conversion rate
Based on this information, we can work backwards to calculate the maximum bid for a given category.
Let’s start with an example: we’re going to bid on CRM category. We know that 5% of visitors (1 in 20) to our landing page will normally go on to convert by starting a free trial. We’ve worked out separately (using Trial to Paid conversion rates, LTV etc) that we have a target CPA of $200, or in other words, we can pay up to $200 for each free trial and still get a positive ROI.
- The maximum we can spend per conversion is $200.
- 5% of people who click through will convert.
- $200 x 5% = $10
- This means we can set our max bid price to $10 per click to get conversions at our target CPA.
This means we can set our max bid price to $10 per click to get conversions at our target CPA.
Now, should we set our max bid price to $10? It depends!
There’s an opportunity cost to each click you receive; a click from one category takes away from your overall budget, so you’ll want to check the performance of the campaign to make sure that you’re highest bids are on the categories that are performing best.
Also, the volume of traffic you receive is not only based on the amount you bid – other factors include the volume of traffic to the directory itself, the volume of traffic within the product category, and how compelling your product profile is. I’ve seen product categories that will send almost 50x more traffic from one directory over another when the same bids prices are in place on both directories. Like everything in marketing, it’s best to run some tests and find out which bid levels work best for your product and categories.
Location Bid Targeting
If you have access to data from your payment processor or a subscription analytics tool like ChartMogul it’s worth taking the time to break your customers out into country-based cohorts to see which countries supply you with the most customers. Alternatively, you can use a product analytics tool like Amplitude to check your conversion funnel to see whether certain countries are converting at a higher rate. Armed with this data you can head to the Gartner admin panel and adjust your bid prices on a per-country basis using Location Bid Targeting.
When the campaign is live you’ll be able to use the Gartner Insights panel to track its performance, and then make adjustments to your bid pricing and/or optimize other areas of the campaign to make improvements.
Some common issues and ways of optimising a campaign:
- Low number of clicks: increase your bid.
- Low number of clicks with a high bid already in place: Try to improve the quality of your product listing by making the copy more compelling, or getting more positive reviews.
- Good number of clicks, low conversion rate: Try to improve your landing page, make the copy more compelling, change the CTAs etc.
I would also recommend keeping track of your conversions using a 3rd party analytics that can measure UTM campaigns, like Google Analytics or Amplitude. If you notice a significant difference between Gartner’s signups and Google Analytics conversions then it’s worth remembering that by default GA reports use the Last Non-Direct Click conversion attribution model, so you might want to check the Model Comparison Tool report to compare it with other models.