This is a minimum viable localization and operational guide for entering the German-speaking market with SaaS marketing, community management and sales operations. It’s intended for marketers who don’t speak the language of the market they’re targeting. Wait, what?
Let’s get our hands dirty and enter the German market
tl;dr: I don’t speak German but still can drive PPC ads, content marketing, multi-channel sales and newsletter signups without consuming all the revenues in maintaining this. I’ll show you how!
This is a step-by-step guide to establishing marketing and sales for a SaaS business on a shoestring budget, startup style. Many of the tips are well known in the SaaS marketing community, so to spice things up I’m adding some ideas that I’ve picked up along the way in the context of multilingual marketing.
Fact: I don’t speak German well enough to write anything meaningful for this audience. For the sake of this guide, this is ideal because I’m assuming that you, fellow marketer, may also be struggling with this.
Test your assumptions before you invest anything into foreign market expansion
tl;dr: Do some market research. Chances are you’ll find something on Google for free!
Start with market analysis to understand what you’re dealing with. I recommend searching for this information online. Plenty of free resources can be found on specialized forums like Quora which will go a long way in this regard.
With a bit of patience, I found a report on the German Software market, courtesy of Germany Trade and Invest (GTAI) – Gesellschaft für Außenwirtschaft und Standortmarketing mbH.
Based on its findings, I am confident that we should enter this market, and that we need to do it fast.
The software market in Germany 2015-2020
tl;dr: There is a huge market, nearly a quarter of entire Europe’s entire software market in fact, and it is going to grow threefold over the next few years. Worth a shot!
Market analysis shows that Germany alone is 24,4% of the European software market, and is forecast by Marketline to grow by nearly 5 billion Euros in value from 2015 to 2019, to a staggering 25 billion EUR worth.
Big Data technology is estimated to grow threefold within this period, impacting on IoT, ERP, CRM, smart grids and networks. Starting from 1,4 billion EUR, Big Data is forecasted by Experton Group to reach 3,8 billion EUR by 2020.
IT security including device security, web messaging, identity and access rights, cloud services, network security and ICT systems in Germany has so far reached 3.7 billion EUR.
Cloud Computing promises to grow as the attitude of Germans towards it has improved significantly over the last couple of years. Suffice to say that in 2016, growth was forecast at a 35% rate, with a market value clocking in at 12 billion EUR.
Enterprise resource planning is still an unsaturated market due to Germany’s highly differentiated industry landscape. Business analytics, big data processing and integration solutions are prime for incorporation in the upcoming years by many Germany businesses. Currently, 2.5 billion EUR is spent on these techs and there is no indication of this figure falling
Risk evaluation and understanding market dynamics
tl;dr: This market is built around implementing software to improve its thriving gradient for a differentiated industry landscape. It appreciates being local, accredited and inter-connected.
There are a couple of prerequisites that SaaS companies looking to enter Germany should tick off their list before launching a marketing strategy.
As a rule of thumb, data storage and company headquarters should be in Germany, or at least in the European Union. Bear in mind, however, that for at least 25% of German businesses this isn’t an issue.
SaaS providers should be flexible and adaptive, provide individual SLAs, support hybrid cloud concepts and allow interoperability of solutions of different providers. In layman’s terms, this is what we SaaS people would call integrations and APIs.
How to find German-speaking influencers and SaaS buyers?
First, look at your buyer personas and interest gradient. Verbalize it like this: software, international marketing, technology, startups, SaaS (software as a service), business, venture capital, translation management system, development of software, programming.
Run your Google Analytics traffic report and split that per channel to get a rough idea of referral traffic sources. See what types of sites give these. Kissmetrics provides a nice “stock” type overview of traffic sources you can easily use.
Do yourself a favor and start using SEMrush. It’s free to start with. Scan your website first, check your organic keywords and their effectiveness. I know you know them by heart, but trust me, you will find nuanced oddities.
Put the keywords into SEMrush again. Make sure you’re scanning local Google – google.de for example. The results that you’ll get should be the counterparts of your all-favourite sites and forums. At this point you could maybe use machine translation to actually understand what they say (if they look like something you would use to promote your SaaS). That’s what I did.
List these sites and score them. Put them into an Excel sheet in Column A, Put their categories in Column B and the score in Column C.
Widen your marketing funnel without disrupting your day-to-day work
You’re still here. Wow!
tl;dr: There are a few interesting German-speaking communities with SaaS buying potential, a special social network (Xing) that’s a bit like LinkedIn, and various software marketplaces.
We curated some lists of media and journalists active in the tech and startup scene in German-speaking countries. You can find your relevant media outlets and influencers per language, or follow us if you’re looking to help promote SaaS businesses in your country.
We’ve invested time and effort to dig out actionable, relevant media outlets, online communities, software marketplaces and influencers in German-speaking countries.
Deutsche Startups is a very good resource for additional Twitter lists of German speaking influencers
http://www.gruenderszene.de/, on the other hand, is where Startup Founders meet.
Junge Gruender deserves a mention, too, due to its fantastic community and outstanding website UI. Non-German speakers can navigate everything easily there, too!
This should give you a head start in getting some initial contacts on social media. However, as you dig deeper, you will find even more interesting places!
Cision DE has prepared a list of influential German Twitter profiles, worth analyzing before setting up a PR campaign
Extradigital.co.uk has outlined the social media landscape in Germany, and apparently, traditional PR makes sense there
Xing is Germany’s equivalent of LinkedIn and there are lots of active communities on there, especially in the areas of Startup and SaaS.
A Xing Community of German Software Developers
A Xing Community of German VCs
A Xing Community of specialized Cloud Computing interests
A Xing Community of Software Testers
A Xing Community of SaaS enthusiasts
Create and translate content in advance
Identify critical, best-converting content that’s used for your current audience. Leverage reviews, testimonials, marketing and sales collateral along with landing pages and eBooks that you already have.
Translate them. Each piece will have its own guide available after the description.
This is a minimum viable localization survival guide so trust me with these items and just get them done:
eBook – Translate your best eBook in order to use it on localized landing pages aimed at awareness, demand generation and not direct sales. This is your foot in the door that proves you mean business.
(Translate an eBook)
Testimonials – Chances are you have German-speaking customers and your CRM should be the go-to place to discover this. If you haven’t been paying attention to the browser language of your customers (who can blame you?) then just take whatever you have and translate it. One will do.
Sales landing page – Pick your best converting sales landing page that has the broadest definition of what it is that you do. To start campaigning in Germany you just need one of these.
(Translate Landing Page)
Educational landing page – This is where your eBook comes in. This page should allow users to opt into your German newsletter in return for an eBook. How we handle them from then on will be explained later.
(Translate Landing Page)
Who, Why and How? – Remember that time you didn’t know what to type into your GetApp listing, because it didn’t allow you to copy content from your site to avoid duplication? That short, long and feature-rich description is what you will need here so be sure to get it translated up front.
(Translate PR info)
Sales e-mail/message content – Be it regular pitch and follow-up content templates you use to contact clients, LinkedIn messages, e-mail automation through apps like Intercom, at some point you will need these.
(Translate e-mail content)
PDFs, Presentations, Collateral – just in case you get good leads, make sure you can actually send them your tailored, localized offer that includes pricing and maybe a localized version of your Terms and Conditions.
Press release about entering the market – a low hanging fruit of actionable press releases. Journalists will appreciate a well-translated pitch from a foreign unicorn looking to revolutionize the local market that always feels like it’s lagging behind Silicon Valley.
(Translate Press Releases)
Translate your product – This is a subject of its own and more details can be found in this guide. If you plan to launch a foreign campaign, your product needs to be adequate, otherwise you’ll see sky-high churn-rates, budget burn and rejection.
(learn how to translate your SaaS)
Set up continuous SaaS translation – Your website, product, e-mails, social presence and documents are all ever-changing organisms that are constantly being reiterated. Do not risk wasting your translations when you update your app, website or content. Instead, work within a modern continuous translation framework.
(learn about continuous translation)
Set up any automation you may be using for lead nurturing to include new content
tl;dr: make sure your German-speaking users are assigned to the right marketing and sales campaigns, which means only the ones that are translated!
We use Intercom for e-mail automation and action-based e-mails. I simply copied our generic e-mail cycle and got it translated. Users enter through a landing page with /DE/ in the URL, and that’s all I need to place them in the right campaign cycle.
E-mail sequences and follow-ups for sales automation focused on users who have not yet signed up to your SaaS should follow the same premise as above.
Make sure to tag these new users in your CRM or Prospecting software as non-English speakers to maintain a consistent experience.
Tag them in your drip marketing systems like MailChimp. I have separate lists and curate them manually just to be sure I’m not spamming anybody.
When ready with the basic setup, proceed with entering the market with mass communications. This can be easily managed on a shoestring budget, too!
Examples of our German marketing efforts, based on the guide above
–Translate a feature
– Facebook advertising for maximum branding coverage (Banner Ads)
– Advertising an eBook
– Google Display ads for German-speaking media (Banner Ads)
– Google Search ads to start lead generation for self-service sales
– Media outreach towards specialized, DE e-zines (Twitter, community management)
– Xing specialized group community outreach
At this point we’re considering hiring someone full time with this language capability or to use Text United in order to find a freelancer to translate these communications so there’s no need to be contonually on the phone.
Sales support in Germany – Close more sales
tl;dr: Sales should focus on closing inbound leads generated through marketing, demand generation, awareness and community management, but also on initiating contact through scalable solutions.
Sales professionals in your organization should leverage:
– Landing pages (lead generation)
– Newsletter forms (drip marketing)
– Prospecting Software (funnel users found in communities via tools like GetProspects)
– Competitive analysis for sales software to find clients of competitors using tools like BuiltWith
– E-mail/Contact curation and segmenting mailing lists for a cold e-mail sequence with the intention to provide relevant, non-spammy, non-salesy contact. LinkedIn profiles, Twitter handles, online communities – Community Manager help to establish a feedback loop between departments
– Set-up “batch” e-mails in MailChimp and outreach to segmented users with different messages to establish best response rates
– Start by building connections, not pitching. Focus on both growing awareness and addressing any client’s concerns. With proper segmentation a ratio of 80% awareness to 20% cold leads should be easily achievable.
Segment lists of people who are not your app’s subscribers
– This segment will be users who are a Buyer Persona actively participating in the use or sourcing of software you intend to pitch. They should fall into the sales pitch funnel. If possible, each person should be treated individually with the first pitch, then should be delegated to the appropriate „Drip” segment in the e-mail automation until they decide to register or request a demo.
– This segment will be users who are potential integration partners (CMS systems, e-commerce systems, marketing agencies, industry influencers, reviewers, review websites). They should be pitched adequately with a customized offer displaying business acumen and deep understanding of their business operations. This is only scalable if direct sales are closing successfully. At first focus on one, single primary reseller partner who could drive market penetration based on insider knowledge – it can be anyone! Start with an individual pitch, then place into relevant „drip” segment e-mail cycle.
Value Added Resellers
– This tactic is similar to Affiliate sales, although, in this case, the user benefits from synergy. These could be agencies who supplement your software with agents capable of managing it (salespeople, freelancers, designers etc.). Start with an individual pitch, then place into relevant ‘drip’ segment e-mail cycle.
Public Relations and Media Outreach
– International press in relevant outlets should be attained through a combination of community management, media pitches (research relevant media, remember?) through individual approaches (via Twitter, LinkedIn, official channels, paid pitches). Individual journalists should then be then put into the adequate ‘drip’ newsletter segment and maintained with occasional press releases (e.g. Our 6 month success update after entering the DE market).
– Similar to Affiliate vs. VAR when compared with PR. Influencer outreach requires community management, a deep understanding of and nuanced communications with influencers. The only scenario in which they should enter this ‘drip’ segment is when they subscribe on their own (see /content preparation/ eBook landing page). They should be maintained publicly via Twitter and communities.
With new business incoming, start thinking about nuances
With everything working as it should, we need to see the obvious flaws in this minimum viable localization and marketing guide. Not everything is translated, client inquiries are not in English, and our single German-speaking employee already has enough on her plate. Still, we need to consider what’s next:
– Social media profiles: Localizing and maintaining multiple profiles
– Chats with customers: Hiring a DE speaking representative
– Support and sales requests: Hiring a DE speaking representative
– Entire Website Translation: Pros, cons, best practices
– DE webinars and demos
– Ad and content fatigue: cycling content in DE markets and how to schedule execution
What else would you like me to cover? Let me know in the comments section!
This was part 2 of a 5-part series on SaaS translation. Read more below!
Part 1: Setting yourself up for success
Part 2: How we set up our sales and marketing process for DACH SaaS sales
Part 3: Translation Memory and TMS: Why you need this in your SaaS stack
Part 4: How to and why should you translate all things SaaS
Part 5: Continuous translation: the CI of international content