How User.com reached 1.5k new B2B leads thanks to hosting SaaS Growth Summit

User.com
17 min readMar 25, 2021

The SaaS Growth Summit was a 2-day online event for SaaS founders, managers, and authors, held on 11–12 February. The conference was founded and hosted by User.com (marketing automation platform and a SaaS itself), and already at the very beginning the User.com team set 3 main project goals. After the initial project evaluation it became clear that the results actually achieved by far exceeded the original expectations.

In this article you’ll find out:

  • What were the 3 main project goals (and related KPIs) and to what extent they were achieved,
  • What were the 2 main challenges User.com faced and how they managed to deal with it,
  • Which marketing tactics worked best for the summit promotion (and what was the Cost and ROI of different promotional activities),
  • Whether the event has ‘paid off’.

Brief introduction and project goals

“For some time we’ve been thinking about organizing something really big that would be interesting for the SaaS industry which is one of our key target segments. We wanted to align working on our business goals with providing the attendees with high-quality content and outstanding business value.” — said Mike Korba, Co-founder and COO at User.com.

The project was managed by Aleksandra Nowak, Senior Marketing Manager at User.com (if you have any questions about the project, contact Aleksandra on LinkedIn), the company has also cooperated with Natalie Luneva — an external consultant and coach working with SaaS businesses. The team started to work on summit preparation at the end of November 2020. Originally, the plan was to host a 1-day event with 12–14 SaaS experts as speakers. In addition, at that time the team set 3 main project goals:

Goal 1: Build User.com brand awareness in the USA and Canada — make User.com appear on the radar of companies looking for marketing automation tools.

There was no exact numerical KPI specified for this goal. However, the team wanted to generate the highest possible number of registrations from those two countries, as well as social media mentions and shares.

User.com has a strong position on the marketing automation market in Poland and in a few other European countries. At the moment, this is not the case in English-speaking countries, including the USA and Canada, where the company directly competes with such industry heavyweights as HubSpot and Intercom. Building brand awareness in North America is one of the main strategic objectives of User.com in mid- to long-term.

Goal 2: Deliver a top-class attendee experience and valuable content that will be used as an evergreen lead magnet long after the event is finished.

User.com assumed that impressions and feelings participants will have towards the Summit and the quality of sessions will directly affect their assessment of the organizer — User.com. Having that in mind, the team set this goal as an extension of goal 1, wanted to encourage great SaaS experts to join the event as speakers and thus deliver the high-quality content to the attendees.

KPI: Encourage 2–3 top SaaS experts worldwide to become Summit speakers. In addition, invite 9–10 great industry experts, maybe being a bit less recognizable but having great knowledge and hands-on experience about running SaaS businesses.

Goal 3: Generate as many Summit registrations as possible and, as a result, generate a possibly high number of new leads from the SaaS industry.

KPI (realistic): 1000 Summit registrations, out of which 60% are new SaaS leads.

KPI (if we could dream it, it would be…): 2000 Summit registrations, out of which 60% are new SaaS leads.

Key challenges faced while working on the Summit preparation

Not long after the project kick-off, it turned out there would be two main challenges:

  1. How to encourage top SaaS experts to become speakers?
  2. How to find and target the right people as attendees (who would be interested in attending the Summit and would find the topic valuable — SaaS Growth & Automation) and generate a big number of registrations?

Execution: inviting top SaaS experts to join the Summit as speakers

The process of reaching out to top SaaS professionals and inviting them to become Summit speakers was successfully managed by Natalie Luneva. Her unique strategy to contact SaaS professionals in a particular order worked out very well. As a first step, Natalie reached out to a few great experts, to confirm. Having a few key speakers who were experts confirmed first, made the process much smoother in further negotiations with top SaaS experts who, due to broad recognizability and a big number of ongoing projects, can be the most difficult to get.

With these key experts, the whole invitation process started to line up well. It was then much easier to encourage other speakers to join. The final line-up included 25 great SaaS professionals (which was 2x more than originally assumed) and the team decided to expand the event to 2 days. Once the headliners had confirmed, additional speakers reached out, offering to speak at the event at no charge.

Execution: generating a high number of Summit registrations

When first speaker names were confirmed, the team needed to focus on generating event registrations.

To promote the SaaS Growth Summit User.com used the following:

  1. Facebook ads

The team created 3 facebook ads campaigns. The main difference between them was the targeted location, which translates into different levels of Cost Per Result. The main campaign (NA) targeted users from the USA and Canada, the next one (Europe/AU) — selected European countries (Sweden, Finland, Iceland, the Netherlands, UK) and Australia — and the last one (SA) — some of the Latin American countries (Brasil, Mexico).

How they created the target audience? The team had 2 approaches here:

  • Lookalike audiences, that were created based on custom audiences, which were imported lists of User.com SaaS customers or prospects
  • Lookalike audiences, that were created based on custom audiences, which were list of SaaS companies meeting some predefined criteria generated with the help of Crunchbase Pro (email addresses of employees of those companies were manually added by one of the User.com employees)

Facebook campaigns turned out to be one of the most successful registrations sources, albeit not the cheapest. You can have a look at the screenshot below to check the results broken down by a campaign type.

The ads were active from 4 January do 12 February 2021. A daily budget per campaign was optimized +-30 PLN a few times, and for the last 10 days prior to the Summit the budget was increased by ~100%.

Total cost: 19 311.41 PLN (~ 5 140 USD)
Total number of Summit registrations: 545
Average cost per Summit registration: 35.43 PLN (~ 9.40 USD)

2. Media partners

Already at the beginning of the project work, User.com sent a summit partnership offer to some companies from their contacts base, that:

  • Have a relatively big number of newsletter subscribers / social media reach, and
  • Target at least some of their products or services at SaaS companies.

In exchange for adding a partner logo and link to their websites on the SaaS Growth Summit landing page, partners promised to spread the word about the event and promote it among their customers and contacts. User.com prepared a separate partner folder with summit promotional banners and copy examples that could be used in newsletters or social media posts. When such top industry experts as Nathan Latka, Rand Fishkin and April Dunford confirmed their participation as speakers, a growing number of companies interested in media partnership started to contact User.com and requested joining the program.

A final number of Summit registrations generated with the help of media partners was a positive surprise for organizers, especially as this promotional tactic was not considered at the very beginning. What is also important — acquiring registrations through this channel didn’t involve any additional costs (except for time and involvement of the User.com team).

Total number of Summit registrations (based on UTM tags so the actual number may be higher than that): about 370
Cost per registration: 0 PLN

3. Cold mailing — lemlist

Lemlist is a great tool for cold email outreach. It enables you to quickly configure a sequence of automated emails. User.com used this tool to send summit invitation emails to SaaS contacts (the team already had lists of people who registered for SaaS events or webinars in the past, in addition they looked for additional company details in Crunchbase Pro). They set up a sequence of 3 messages (screenshots below).

Lemlist monthly subscription cost (User.com uses lemlist on regular basis at many other projects): 198 USD
Total number of registrations: 19
Cost per registration: 10,4 USD

At first a cost per result could seem to be quite high but having considered that User.com already had a lemlist subscription purchased and the contact base was ready, it really was a low-hanging fruit. What is more, those 19 registrations at the same time are also great SaaS leads.

Email 1

Email 2

Email 3

4. Newsletter ads — Paved

Paved is an ad platform you can use to purchase newsletter ads targeted at a predefined group of recipients. To promote Sass Growth Summit the team set up ads through the ‘Ad Network’, where once configured ads are placed in many different newsletters sent to target groups meeting particular criteria. The Paved campaign was activated relatively late (1st February) and was running for 10–11 days.

Total number of registrations: 14
Cost per registration: 7,8 USD

5. One-off promotion in Indie Letters

Indie Letters is a newsletter for marketers and startups.

Total cost: 70 USD
Number of registrations: 4
Cost per registration: 17,5 USD

6. Direct invitations in a form of LinkedIn messages

Direct messages with invites for the Summit were manually sent from the account of the CEO of User.com. The key target group were SaaS founders and managers located in the USA or Canada.

7. Email invites sent to User.com contacts base, promo banners added on selected User.com pages

There were 2 email invites sent to User.com contacts base. In addition, a longer event description was included in the User.com monthly newsletter. Also, the team used their own User.com application to set up an additional email reminder campaign (one reminder is automatically sent through HeySummit) sent to those who started the Summit registration but have not completed the process. Also, on selected User.com landing pages and blog posts targeted at SaaSes the team added Summit banners and a link to registration form.

Total number of registrations: 40

8. Cooperation with speakers (preparation of personalized promo banners)

Each speaker received an individual Summit promo banner (some examples below). Since the confirmation of their participation until the actual Summit started Natalie had contacted each speaker a few times, shared all the important details and asked for support in promotional activities. Summit speakers were very helpful in sharing the information about the event in their social media, some of them were also eager to place the promo banners in their newsletters or on their websites.

9. Twitter ads

Twitter ads weren’t included in the original promotional plan but, as the event was getting closer, the team wanted to test some additional registration acquisition ideas. They created a few ad banners promoting sessions of particular speakers and targeted those ads at followers of those speakers. Twitter campaigns were activated too late to be able to assess their effectiveness. However, this channel generated a few additional registrations, while the total cost accounted to around 200 PLN (~ 53 USD).

10. Podcast sponsorship

User.com sponsored one episode of the UI Breakfast Podcast, hosted by Jane Portman who is a SaaS expert and joined the event as a speaker.

Podcast sponsorship (single episode): 399 USD

Additional promotion:

  • Cooperation with Artur Kurasiński (it covered, among others, promoting Summit in his newsletter)
  • Facebook event
  • LinkedIn event and sending automated LinkedIn invitations to contacts of User.com employees
  • Organic social media posts (facebook and LinkedIn), including promo videos recorded by some of the speakers (video from Nathana Latka and video recorded by TK Kader )
  • A set of promotional materials prepared for User.com employees: special gmail signature with the Summit promotional banner, facebook and LinkedIn cover photos.

In addition, the team used freebies from the speakers to encourage anyone who completed the summit registration process to share the Summit on their social media pages (only those who registered and shared participated in the drawing).

Tech stack used by the User.com team for the project

  1. HeySummit — a tool for hosting and managing online events. The team used it for:
  • Creating Summit landing page (page builder + an option to edit its design with Custom CSS)
  • Creating a registration form
  • Sending automated emails with registration confirmation and reminders prior to and during the Summit
  • Adding free giveaways given by the speakers in one place — HeySummit has a built-in module that lets you use those perks as incentive for registrants to share the event in their social media. After the event, HeySummit automatically selects the winners and sends them information about their prize.

Monthly subscription: 33 USD

2. Airmeet — a video streaming platform. You can use Airmeet to create an event venue for 2 types of online events: ‘Meetup’ — a good choice if you’re going to host a smaller event, like for example a webinar or workshops, and ‘Conference’ — perfect for bigger remote conferences and summits, thanks to Airmeet networking sections and a possibility to host parallel live sessions, this format make the attendee feel almost like st the on-site summit.

User.com purchased an Airmeet LTD on AppSumo. Total cost: 237 USD.

3. User.com — the team found it extremely useful to use their own software, especially for:

  • Visitor and user tracking on the Summit page, automated push of data collected in the registration form and other information about user’s behaviour to the User.com CRM the whole company uses on a daily basis,
  • Send-out of additional email campaigns: reminders and nurturing emails after the Summit.

In addition, having all the information about the Summit registrants in the CRM they use every day enabled the team to quickly react to ad hoc issues. It was, for example, an immediate send-out of email campaign with an Airmeet link to all the registrants, immediately after the team noticed that the beginning of one of the sessions run by a top speaker, a number ot live attendees dropped below 100. Thanks to sending a personalized email campaign through User.com to an automatically updated user segment with all the Summit registrants, the number of attendees increased by 20–25% within a few minutes.

4. Figma — all design and promotional items, e.g. logos of SaaS Growth Summit, promotional banners, social media cover images, personalized Summit banners for speakers as well as the booklet with the Summit summary were created in Figma. Thanks to the possibility of team collaboration in real time and many helpful plug-ins (e.g. Unsplash) it is an amazing tool for marketers and designers to work together.

A full version of the platform costs 15 USD per person per month.

5. Lemlist — a cold email outreach platform that was discussed already above.

Project timeline

Below you can have a look at the detailed project timeline, with the list of key activities that were performed in a given week. The entire project work lasted 12 weeks (end of November 2020–12 February 2021).

Week 0 (end of November 2020):

  • kick-off call

Weeks 1–5 (30.11.2020–3.01.2021):

  • Creating the Summit landing page (HeySummit builder)
  • Approaching first group of SaaS experts with speaker invitation
  • Preparing promotional items: SaaS Growth Summit logo, landing page banners, Summit promo banners in different shapes and sizes, examples of individual speaker banners (to be updated with the headshots of actual speakers as they confirm their participation)
  • Brainstorming on promotion plan and different marketing ideas
  • Gradual updates of the Summit landing page — adding photos of new speakers, small design tweaks
  • After a given speaker confirmed their interest in joining the Summit, they were asked to fill out a short form — it included, among others, questions about whether they’d be interested in offering some freebies for registrants who share the event in social media, e.g. free ebooks (regular price 15–20 USD), discounts for subscriptions to their tools or free consultation calls
  • Adding prizes offered by the speaker to the ballot section of the landing page (a built-in module in HeySummit)

Week 6 (4–10.01.2021):

  • First social media posts about the Summit
  • Launching facebook ads — the initial daily budget was ~ 200 PLN (~ 53 USD)
  • Ongoing updates of individual speaker banners
  • Reaching out to potential event partners (companies who have SaaSes among their audiences)

Week 7 (11–17.01.2021):

  • Placing Summit promotional banners on selected User.com pages and blog posts targeted at SaaS companies
  • Preparing a set of promotional items for User.com employees: special gmail signature with event banner, social media cover images
  • Reaching out to authors of top Google search posts featuring “best 2021 online conferences for SaaS” and asking if they can add SaaS Growth Summit

Week 8 (18–24.01.2021):

  • Adding summit partner section and first partner logos on the Summit landing page
  • Ongoing updates of individual speaker banners (for speakers who most recently confirmed their participation)
  • Setting up a test Airmeet event to check out different options, test streaming, screen sharing, attendee management possibilities etc.
  • Manual send-out of Summit invites from the LinkedIn account of the User.com CEO

Week 9 (25–31.01.2021):

  • Creating a new facebook community for SaaS founders and managers with the plan to promote it during the Summit
  • Launching the newsletter ads through Paved (“Ad Network”)
  • Setting up an actual Summit in Airmeet, creating partner booths and networking section

Week 10 (1–7.02.2021):

  • Increasing a daily budget of facebook ad campaigns by 100%
  • Sending reminder emails to the speakers, asking if they can promote the Summit in their channels and/or record a short promo video of their session
  • Sending calendar invites and all Airmeet the log-in details to the speakers
  • Launching Twitter ads
  • Publishing the promotional videos recorded by the speakers on User.com social media profiles
  • Cooperation with Airmeet in terms of Summit promotion — SaaS Growth Summit was added to the upcoming events section on the Airmeet website
  • Encouraging summit partners to share information about the event in their cocktail media and newsletter

Week 11 (8–10.02.2021):

  • Boost of social media promotion, a thank you post with all partners tagged (additonal reach and shares)
  • Setting up facebook and YouTube live streaming in the Airmeet platform
  • Last content updates on the Summit landing page, final tests of automated emails sent by HeySummit during and after the event; adding a link to a new facebook group to HeySummit emails in order to promote a new community for SaaS founders and managers
  • Preparing a list of items / information to be mentioned by the Summit host — Natalie — during the live event (promotion of User.com, thanking particular partners, some general updates)

Summit days (11–12.02.2021):

  • Taking care of incoming email enquiries, helping in case of any technical issues
  • Taking screenshots of attendees’ comments, finding the most engaged participants to be able to contact them in the future and ask for testimonials
  • User.com sales actively participating in the Summit, taking care of networking with other attendees
  • Live social media posting with interesting highlights from different sessions

After the Summit:

  • Preparing a Summit wrap-up booklet that includes a thank you message, list of all speakers and links to replays, logos of all event partners and links to their websites
  • Sending a thank you email campaign (with a link to the booklet) to all Summit registrants
  • Handwriting a thank you note for each speaker and sending them as special thanks (as a photo attached to an email)
  • Passing a list of leads generated at the Summit to the User.com SDR team — each lead will receive a personalized video that related to the SaaS Growth Summit and is a starting point of potential cooperation

Project results and business benefits

Let’s look at the 3 main project goals again and check what the team actually achieved (in red).

Goal 1: Build User.com brand awareness in the USA and Canada — make User.com appear on the radar of companies looking for marketing automation tools.

There was no exact numerical KPI specified for this goal. However, the team wanted to generate the highest possible number of registrations from those two countries, as well as social media mentiones and shares.

Actual result: 19 out of 25 speakers were experts from the USA or Canada. 451 out of ~ 1500 generated B2B leads are companies from the USA or Canada.

Goal 2: Deliver a top-class attendee experience and valuable content that will be used as an evergreen lead magnet long after the event is finished.

KPI: Encourage 2–3 top SaaS experts worldwide to become Summit speakers. In addition, invite 9–10 great industry experts, maybe being a bit less recognizable but having great knowledge and hands-on experience about running SaaS businesses.

Actual result: 25 speakers, including such SaaS industry heavyweights as, among others, Nathan Latka, Rand Fishkin, April Dunford, Patrick Campbell, Georgiana Laudi and TK Kader.

Goal 3: Generate as many Summit registrations as possible and, as a result, generate a possibly high number of new leads from the SaaS industry.

KPI (realistic): 1000 Summit registrations, out of which 60% are new SaaS leads.

KPI (if we could dream it, it would be…): 2000 Summit registrations, out of which 60% are new SaaS leads.

Actual result: 2130 registrations, including around 1 500 new SaaS leads (70%).

Costs vs. Gains — a short summary

Total cost of paid promotional activities: 21 695 PLN (~ 5 740 USD)

Personal costs: 44 855 PLN (~ 11 869 USD)

Tech stack: ~ 2 400 PLN (~ 635 USD, including Figma and lemlist, which User.com have been using already, also for other projects)

Total cost: ~ 69 000 PLN (~ 18 260 USD)

Results directly related to the Summit:

  • 2130 Summit registrations, which translated into ~ 1,5k B2B leads
  • Creating a lead magnet with evergreen valuable content ( since the Summit every day about 6–8 new leads has registered at https://saassummit.user.com/ to be able to watch the replays although it has not been actively promoted.)
  • Building relationships with 25 speakers that are great SaaS experts, there are already a few new projects being negotiated with some of them at the moment
  • Strengthening User.com relationships with partners and reaching new companies interested in potential partnership

Sales results (as per 19.02.2021, so 1 week after the event):

  • 28 new User.com accounts,
  • 5 demo calls,
  • 4 new clients.

As a User.com sales cycle is about 3 months, the team expects a significantly higher number of new demo calls and deals in the next few weeks.

And what didn’t work out?

Here a short comment from Aleksandra Nowak, Senior Marketing Manager at User.com: “Our facebook streaming didn’t fire up :-) Also, there were a few things that could be done better at the next event, for example better reminder and log-in emails so that we’d provide a seamless and smooth attendee experience. In the future we’ll also plan a short break in the middle of each day of the summit. 12–13 sessions per day, 30 minutes each, one after another may have been a way too intense for some of the attendees. ”

Wrapping up: is organizing an online conference an effective marketing tactic for your business?

Yes — it surely can be if you do it right. The covid-19 pandemic forced us to move almost all business events to the internet, which made it easier to reach top experts from different industries. It’s also easier now to organize an event at scale and target the right audience regardless of their physical location.

On the other hand, moving all the events to the web has caused a huge increase of remote conferences and companies are now competing for each potential attendee and fighting for their attention. In the digital marketing or SaaS industries even some big conferences that are really well-known and have been organized for years, are now struggling to get a decent number of registrants and, during the live event, to keep the attendees engaged.

However, if you plan your event advance, focus strongly on the preparation stage (especially in relation to promotional plan and selecting the tech stack), and learn from the experiences of User.com, there is a high chance you’ll be successful. If you have any additional questions to the team, feel free to ask Aleksandra (https://www.linkedin.com/in/aleksandraanowak/) or Mike (https://www.linkedin.com/in/michalkorba/).

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User.com

Marketing Automation platform designed for SaaS, E-commerce and Digital Businesses: https://user.com/en/