Going After International Markets: The SaaS Expansion Strategy

Do you want to test a new market with a small budget for SaaS international expansion?

If you’ve already saturated the US market and the English-speaking markets – Canada, UK, and Australia – international expansion can be one of the best growth opportunities for your SaaS business.

How should you go about SaaS international expansion? Here are the 3 steps we’ve taken with our SaaS clients to help them reach users abroad. We’d start testing in one country – here’s how.

1. Identify the Search Demand in the Local Language

SaaS international expansion starts with doing some keyword research in the local language. Find the keywords that are related to your product or service and see if there's any search demand. Ahrefs’s keyword explorer is the perfect tool for the job, as you can see the volumes by country. Another great option is SEMrush, as it also provides localized results.

If you use both tools, you’ll find significant differences in the keyword metrics. The reason for that is that each tool has its own way of measuring keyword difficulty or volume and aggregating the results. Don’t stress over it – choose one and use it for all the research, so your data is comparable. Here at Hop Online, we tend to use Ahrefs more often.What's important here is to find local language keywords in a particular foreign region where you intend to market your SaaS platform. Is there any search demand for those keywords there?

2. Test the Market With Google Search Ads

If you’re identified your keywords and the research has shown there is some search demand, the next step in SaaS international expansion is to put together some Google Search Ads and test them in the local language.

You'll need to take some time to translate those ads so it's completely accurate to the language spoken in the country. Translating the ad copy does create a hassle, but it would definitely deliver higher click-through rates.You can even take it a step further and translate all the copy on the landing pages you are using for better results.But by delighting them with ads and landing page copy in their local language, you're going to maximize the click-through rate and the conversion rate and give yourself the best chance of getting the lowest possible cost per free trial sign-up.

3. Localize the Entire Customer Journey

If you’ve seen some success with the PPC campaigns in this country, you should go the extra mile and localize the entire buyer journey.

Not only the copy on the landing page but also currencies, check-out, thank you pages – all the touchpoints with your potential customers should be localized for their country and language to boost your conversion rates.

Next comes an onboarding journey for those international customers. Your best move here is to do that through an email nurturing process where you can provide stellar content showcasing your platform's unique features. You’d need to invest some resources into translating and localizing this content for each international market.

All of this work would give you an even better chance of getting new SaaS users customers at the best possible customer acquisition cost in that new market.

Measure Your Return On Ad Spend

If you have a solid plan on how to expand internationally, the next thing to consider is how you’ll measure the return on that investment. To see the true picture of Return On Ad Spend (ROAS), first, you’d need to calculate your customer lifetime value and measure it against the customer acquisition cost for each campaign. Doing this helps determine which campaign really works, so you stick by it when going international.

You can use Google Analytics for part of this, but it doesn't calculate recurring transactions after free SaaS trials, as they happen on a different payment platform. Our workaround on this is to implement the user-ID feature in Google Analytics first.

This way we can see the data for conversions that happen off-site, i.e. free-trial users turning into paying customers, and optimize campaigns for these users, not for tire-kickers.

For more ideas on SaaS growth and expansion tactics, read more about how our SaaS client Output raised 45 million in series A financing!

Paris Childress

Head of Paid Media

My job is to match talented, motivated marketers with high-growth companies, arm teams for success, and then get out of the way.