Whether you’re an agency running campaigns for a client or someone doing things in-house, you’ve probably been in a situation where you had both ambitious spend targets and seemingly unrealistic cost-per-acquisition targets. Which to prioritise? Should you sacrifice efficiency or make significant budget cuts and bring in fewer customers?

What if I told you that you could save both customer volume and money at the same time, making your campaigns within the Gartner network (Capterra, GetApp, Software Advice) a cash cow for your company/client?


Capterra is the best known of three B2B software rating platforms in the Gartner portfolio. It is one of the most significant marketing options for your B2B software, claiming over 5 million views a month and leads that are x3 more likely to convert. You can find out more about the importance of Capterra for B2B SaaS marketing and learn how to set up a new account in my previous article.

Capterra is a relatively straightforward directory tool, ranking products based on a combination of customer ratings and CPC bidding. Once you have set up your Capterra account, the next challenge is to optimise that spend. But the prize does not always go to the highest bidder! I got much better ROI with lower, but better-targeted bidding. With just a few simple steps you can do this too…

Identify the sweet spots in the Capterra rankings

Before you make any changes, you need to learn what’s driving your performance. There’s no universal rule that applies to all products and categories. You need to discover what works for you, spot your winners and develop a set of principles to guide your bidding.

Checking your average position trends against your CPC and conversions can tell you where your “sweet spots” are across different directories*. Which positions are getting the best ROI at a reasonable scale?

As a rule of thumb, I’ve found that top place is probably the worst position to be at. It’s the position that you need to bid most to get to and so will drive up your CPC, but the conversion rate is often the same or worse than from other high positions. This is because people who linger on the page and check out more of the recommendations tend to be better-qualified leads than those who just click on the very first result. Often you get worse quality traffic in position 1 and your cost per conversion is high. The lower positions get fewer leads overall, but those leads tend to convert better. For my clients, most of the ROI sweet spots are between positions 2 and 4.

Don’t abandon poor performers

You may be tempted to pull out of bids on directories where you see poor performance, but this could be a mistake. As your placement is on all 3 of the Gartner sites, poor performance overall could be hiding a good performing placement on one of the smaller sites.

Let’s say one of your top spending directories is working brilliantly on GetApp but running up costs with only a few conversions on Capterra. This will make the overall efficiency of the directory look poor. What do you do? Abandon directory? – Wrong.

Once you pull out of a directory on Capterra, you’ve pulled out of that directory on GetApp and Software Advice too, potentially losing some valuable conversions and losing scale.

Instead, you should look to minimise your bids on poorly performing directories, but not pull out of them altogether. This means you can:

  1. Reduce costs significantly. For example, reduce your maximum bid from 10$ per click to 2$.
  2. Keep your presence in that directory – if competition is lower on one of the sites you could still be on the first page there.
  3. Get more interested clicks – clicks lower down the rankings are probably better-qualified clicks. People who scroll through usually make more educated decisions, meaning they were highly interested in your ad when they clicked on it.

What we saw in one of our major directories confirmed this hypothesis. The ROI on the directory was poor, but instead of pulling out entirely, we substantially reduced our bid instead. The result was that while the purchase volume dropped by only 10-20% in the directory, our spend decreased six-fold, turning around the performance and making the directory very efficient!

Take the same approach with geos/markets  

The same principles apply if you are running your campaigns in different markets and are deciding how you allocate budget across your various geographies. Abandoning expensive geos may seem like an obvious solution to reduce costs, but it is a much better idea just to reduce your bids and maintain a presence. You might find that your lower bids convert better and, even if volumes drop right off, at least you don’t lose out on the chance of a few clicks that are really interested in your product.

Run the numbers again and high-five yourself 

The effectiveness of these tactics will vary from case to case. However, take the approach I have outlined here and even if your ROI doesn’t jump, it’s highly likely you’ll at least improve it.  

What we saw after a few months of taking this approach was 10-15% fewer paying customers per month (you can’t keep all of them), but a reduced monthly spend of more than 40%. In addition we saw:

• Cost per signup drop by over 20%
• Cost of acquisition drop by more than 30%, as conversion rate went up
• Our client’s monthly ROI went from 20-25% to over 50%!

Not bad for a few simple tricks, right? 

*directories are the categories of software products. Each directory has its own list of ranked products on Capterra. ‘Accounts Payable Software’ and ‘Restaurant POS software’ are 2 examples of many.