Romeo and Juliet, Kim and Kanye, Hailey and Justin, SaaS, and Inbound Marketing. If ever there were a couple destined to be bound together, SaaS and inbound marketing would fit the mold better than any human couple.
Companies that are looking to meet their customers’ greatest needs through a cloud-based platform naturally will have the greatest success finding those customers who are searching the Internet for solutions. If not a match made in heaven, then certainly a match made in the cyber universe.
But like building the perfect relationship, finding the right inbound marketing strategy to lift your SaaS company into the stratosphere will require constant attention and adaptation. Implementing an effective inbound marketing strategy for your SaaS company, will attract your ideal customers and generate highly qualified marketing leads. You’ll be able to build and nurture a relationship with these quality leads and increase the percentage of leads who convert into paying customers. Better still, this strategy shortens the length of your sales cycle, spells faster growth, reduces acquisition costs and produces higher revenues. Sounds pretty great, right.
In this guide, we’ll delve into how an inbound marketing strategy optimized for SaaS will generate awareness, create demand, and acquire new customers for your company.
- What Is Inbound Marketing
- Generate Awareness
- How to Do Effective Content Marketing
- Building Your Sales Funnel
- Creating Content for Your Sales Funnel
- Create a Content Hub
- Content Amplification
- Content Syndication
- Create Demand
- Call to Action
- Landing Pages
- Acquire New Customers
- Lead Nurturing
- Customer Success
What Is Inbound Marketing
But first, a quick primer on inbound marketing.
For centuries, marketing has focused on pushing out a message broad universe and hoping to hit or convince enough customers they needed a company’s product.
Inbound marketing reverses that trend because consumers have reversed course. With all the information in the world at their fingertips, consumers go in search of solutions to their problems (marketers call these pain points). That means companies have to be where consumers are searching for solutions to their problems and challenges to demonstrate that their companies have the best opportunity to solve these consumers’ problems.
This confluence is what makes SaaS and inbound marketing such an ideal marriage. After all, Software as a Service perfectly defines a business model that is trying to address customers’ pain points, and inbound marketing perfectly synchs with that by positioning your service as the solution where customers are searching for answers.
Inbound marketing succeeds in this endeavor by understanding a customer’s journey from the time they start searching for a solution to the point when they purchase your service.
Consumers pass through three stages on the buyer journey: awareness, consideration, and decision. With an effective inbound marketing strategy, your SaaS company will take these four actions to assist buyers along this journey: identify, connect, explore, and advise.
Throughout the rest of this whitepaper, we’ll discuss how to create an inbound marketing strategy specifically for your SaaS company that will take your potential SaaS customers through the three stages of their journey and convert them to buyers.
In the vast digital world, you can’t just turn on a flashing neon arrow and expect potential customers to notice it flashing in their direction.
To generate awareness with your potential customers, you have to understand your customers, learn where they hang out and where they are most likely to search for ways to solve the problems and challenges your SaaS can solve for them, catch their attention with information helpful to them, which builds authority and trust, and finally, invite them to take action to learn more and consider how your SaaS can help them solve their biggest problems.
The way to stand out in that digital jungle is through effective content marketing. Notice, we said “effective content marketing,” because there are mountains of content out on the Internet that are not doing an effective job of marketing. Your content needs to be so effective that is serves as that neon sign pointing the arrow at your SaaS company.
How to Do Effective Content Marketing
While the purpose of inbound marketing is to capture viewers at the top of a sales funnel and lead them through a journey that converts them into buyers, the construction of that sales funnel is most effective when you begin at the base.
Building from the base starts with defining your ideal customer. As a SaaS company, you already have an understanding of this customer as you built your solution to solve the problems for specific users. In the marketing world, this person is known as a buyer persona. For example, if your SaaS business is selling accounting services to small to mid-sized business, the person most likely to make a decision about buying your service is the owner, who might not be knowledgeable about accounting practices and principles, or maybe even a hired bookkeeper who is good with numbers but has little accounting training. However, if you’re targeting your accounting services at Fortune 500 companies, your buyer persona will be a chief financial officer with accounting and/or business degrees with a much higher knowledge base, meaning you need a different type of content.
This simple example is meant merely to show how understanding your customer will affect what type of content you need. The more comprehensive you can build out your buyer persona, the better you can create effective content and target your marketing toward that ideal customer.
Likewise, your buyer persona also will tell you where to reach that customer. If your ideal customer is a 60-year-old business owner, your marketing needs to focus in a different location than if your ideal customer is a 22-year-old video game player.
The type of content, the topics, and the media types needed to attract these customers also will differ, be it blog posts, whitepapers, ebooks, podcasts, videos, product demos, free trials and more.
Building Your Sales Funnel
Establishing this base with your buyer persona, now allows you to construct a sales funnel in a manner that will address that buyer’s needs and move them along the journey.
Following the HubSpot model, your inbound marketing efforts will need to take these four steps in attracting customers:
● Identify: You first must identify potentially customer who experience the pain point your service is designed to address. As they begin their journey to search for a solution, your service needs to appear on their radar. Then you are able to offer them something of value for free in return for providing you something of value, such as their email address, phone number, and even other business details. Incentives at the top of the funnel should be more educational than promotional, so the potential customer gains trust in you as a valuable resource. Your viewer has now taken the step to become a visitor, someone who should catch the attention of your marketing efforts, even if it’s all automated at that point.
● Connect: Once the customer takes that first step, you connect with them by making good on the first offer, then making a second offer after they act on the first offer. Maybe that first offer was an ebook explaining the value of SaaS accounting services, and at the end you include links to a free demo or free trial of your solution. When they link to the free product demo, you might ask for a little more information, like the type of company they work for, where they are located, etc. At this point, the visitor converts to a marketing qualified lead (MQL) worth following up.
● Explore: If your free demo/free trial proves appealing and the potential customer wants to explore further, you should be ready to offer even more information such as a whitepaper or a free trial. At this point in the journey, the MQL likely is ready to convert to a sales qualified lead (SQL).
● Advise: The role of the sales team should kick in at this point to advise your potential customer about why your SaaS company offers the best solution to their pain point. While your promotional offerings still need to contain educational elements, it can focus around the features and benefits of your service over your competitor
Creating Content for Your Sales Funnel
Once you’ve decided on your buyer persona and the structure of your sales funnel, you’ll want to make sure you’ve created effective content to feed targeted prospects into the funnel. Which type of content you choose to create will depend upon your service and your buyer persona, but here’s a quick overview of some basic content:
● Blog: A company blog is a great place to start your content creation as it gives you a place to tell your story and to educate potential customers. Telling your story is a small but important piece of content marketing because customers will feel they have more of a relationship with you if they know something about your company. A blog also is effective at sharing educational content about your sector of the SaaS industry and catching those early visitors. Lastly, but maybe most importantly, a blog provides a simple way to keep your website active, which attracts the attention of the search engines.
● Pillar Page: Pillar pages on your website are a method to connect a lot of related content. Much like a services page, a pillar page gives an overview of a specific portion of your service that links out the blog posts for readers who want more information. Pillar pages perform well on search engines because of the internal links.
● Video: HubSpot reports in its 2018 video marketing survey that 72 percent of customers would rather watch a video about a product than any other educational material. And videos don’t have to be about cats or cute kids to attract attention. If people are interested in your field, they will watch and share videos about your products if they are presented in an interesting and informative manner.
● Podcasts: Podcasting is thought to be losing some steam as a marketing tool, but still more than half of American households listen to podcasts on a regular basis and the average podcast listener listens to 7 shows a week. Podcast listeners also tend to be more affluent and better educated. Podcasting does require a considerable time commitment, as it needs to be a weekly activity.
● Ebook: An Ebook is a good way to spin more information out of a blog post or combine information from several blog posts. Ebooks generally are offered in exchange for an email address. Ebooks include graphics and photographs and are in a format that’s easily read.
● Whitepaper: A whitepaper is a longer, more academic educational piece that is downloaded in pdf format. Whitepapers cite a good deal of research about a topic and include more dense blocks of type and informational graphics. Whitepapers are targeted to visitors who are ready to tip into the buying stage, though they still need to be educational and not promotional.
● Product Demo: Depending upon your SaaS service, a product demo can serve at the top of the funnel, near the middle or as a closing piece. A top of funnel piece likely will be a video or screen capture giving a general overview, whereas a closing piece might be done interactively with a member of the sales team.
● Free Trial: Again, a free trial can vary wildly depending upon your service. A video game may want to let users play the first level or two right off the bat, while an accounting service may need to offer a 30-day or 3-month trial at the very bottom of the funnel.
Other content might be needed for your particular business, but covering these basic would get you solidly off the ground.
Create a Content Hub
Even as you’re building up your content, you’ll need to find the most effective ways to share that content.
We’ve found the best way of sharing your content with viewers at the top of the funnel and attracting the attention of the search engines, visitors and, more importantly, repeat visitors is to create a content hub. A content hub is a niche resource center full of helpful content focused around problems/challenges your potential customers are trying to solve in a specific area. A hub that they will come to again and again as a resource, whether they ever do business with the SaaS company or not. You can think of a content hub as a blog on steroids, a blog that continues to feed the needs of your potential customers. Media types include, articles, videos, infographics,
One great aspect of a content hub is that besides linking to all of your excellent content, you can link to other authoritative content created by people you respect, giving your visitors the opportunity to answer all of their questions without feeling like they are getting a sales pitch.
You also create links to social media, videos and more, all designed with the idea of positioning yourself as the ultimate authority in your field, so visitors will be drawn repeatedly to your content hub to answer their primary questions. Visitors also will spend more time on your website, giving you the opportunity to generate leads and gather more information about them and what is their interest in your service.
A content hub also offers you the chance to test your various content marketing pieces to see which resonate with customers and which ones are ignored, allowing you to better focus on what works.
A great example of a large content hub is Entrepreneur.com, it is a website with content focused just on Entrepreneurship, providing helpful content that help solve problems and challenges of their audience. Now, you don’t need to produce nearly as much content as a site like Entrepreneur.com, but your content hub should be equally focused.
One good example of a SaaS company content hub is Rain Retail’s Omnichannel Retailing Hub found at https://blog.rainpos.com and is a content hub focused on helping small retailers become Omnichannel retailers. And of course, Rain Retail just so happens to offer an Omnichannel retailing Software as a Service to provide retailers with a turn-key solution. The content hub builds authority and trust with your audience. So, naturally, your solution will be top of their consideration list when they decide trying to piece all the pieces together and do it themselves is to time consuming, expensive, and difficult.
Assuming you’ve done all of your SEO optimization due diligence and taken care of broken links and all that fun stuff to keep your website fresh and appealing to the search engines, you still don’t want to rely solely on their search algorithms.
Through content amplification, you’ll drive more traffic to your website, which in turn makes it more appealing to organic traffic. Just as you made a deliberate effort to create content based upon your buyer persona and the buyer journey, you’ll need to put the same effort into content amplification to succeed.
Content amplification encompasses promoting your content through paid, owned and earned media.
Owned media is the media you control through your website, blog, social media, etc.
Earned media is the media notice you receive through the press or other websites, based in part on your expertise and your content. We’ll discuss this in greater detail later.
At this point we want to focus on how paid media can be used to amplify your content, generally at a rather economical aspect.
Paid media can refer to anything from local media to national TV network to trade publications and beyond (the old outbound methods), but inbound marketing focuses more heavily on paid social media advertising to drive traffic to your content.
Social media advertising allows you to create a laser focus on your potential customers by using the intelligence these platforms have gained about their users, so you don’t waste money throwing advertising at people who are not your potential customers.
Based upon your buyer persona, you direct advertising to appear only people who are in positions or industries who could benefit from your service. Back to our example of marketing accounting SaaS to Fortune 500 companies, LinkedIn and Facebook advertising would direct your advertising toward those types of executives with a built-in message that would appeal to them.
Google Display also allows you to created audience targeted advertising appearing across their network of affiliated websites, allowing you to put your message before targeted consumers in many places they browse regularly.
Another important component of the inbound marketing framework for attracting high quality leads to your content is through syndication. This involves republishing your content on sites such as LinkedIn Pulse, Medium or Quora.
Having your content published on other sites provides several benefits:
● Authority: Your name and your company attain status as an authority in your field.
● Thought Leadership: By jumping out ahead of the crowd, you establish a position of thought leadership in new and growing fields.
● SEO Gains: Search engines will note the mention of your name and your brand in these authoritative sites in addition to the links the articles will provide back to your website.
Besides publishing your own work on these sites, commenting on other people’s posts can gain attention, particularly if you can offer a contradictory point of view or an expansion on the points the original authors are making.
You also can gain authority by contributing to publications specific to your field or business publications such as Forbes, Money and Entrepreneur as these publications also carry status with the search engines as well as leaders in your field.
Guest blogging on other websites in your field adds to your online presence and builds your authority status, just as having experts guest blog on your website can add oomph to your blog.
Remarketing allows you to stay in touch with a highly coveted group of people: those who have visited your website already. Maybe they didn’t share lead information with you during a previous visit(s), but through remarketing you can re-engage them and increase your chances of capturing them as a potential customer.
Here’s how it works: When someone visits your website, they are tagged for a particular remarketing service. That remarketing service then reads those tags and targets them with your advertising. The best services for this are:
● Google: Google’s remarketing ads span across some 2 million affiliated websites, meaning your ads reach people in many places they surf across the Internet.
● Facebook: With a combination of Facebook Dynamic Ads and remarketing, you can get specific content in front of previous site visitors whenever they log into Facebook. And with 1.37 billion daily users, that’s a lot of potential customers to remind about their visit to your website.
● LinkedIn: Though referred to as retargeting, it’s the same approach on LinkedIn, where your site visitors can be tagged to receive your ads on LinkedIn, ensuring you’re reaching a highly professional audience.
Remarketing ads can be made specific about which pages visitors reached on your site so if you have multiple offerings, you can target potential customers based on the actions they took on your site. Retail websites can even go so far as to remind people they left something in a shopping cart.
Getting new customers for your business is hard work. Getting noticed across the vast noise of the Internet is hard work. Once you’ve been noticed, getting customers to move into their buyer journey also is hard work.
When your potential buyers discover you through their search or your social media campaigns, you first give them something of value to begin building a relationship of trust. If they’ve come to your content hub, most likely they are spending time browsing through the different educational opportunities you’ve provided, absorbing your content and gaining respect and confidence in your SaaS company. But how do you move them from browser to buyer?
Two important elements of your inbound marketing strategy will be vital for drawing those visitors into the middle of your sales funnel, the area where they become Marketing Qualified Leads.
Call to Action (CTA)
Every piece of content you create should contain a strong call to action or even multiple calls to action. A call to action is simply a way of asking a visitor to contact you or access a free offering. An effective call to action can come in three forms:
● Inline Text: One call to action should flow directly from your content. For instance, a blog piece can have a call to action at the end leading to the contact page or you can offer a link to free content where appropriate in the text. Back to our accounting example, say you have a blog on recent changes in tax compliance regulations; you can strategically place a sentence or two in a natural place in the text to point to your ebook “The Complete Guide to Tax
● Outside Text: Another option, which often proves more effective, is to include a small graphic box in your text pointing to your free offer. Your accounting post now features a small box inset in the text that shows the cover of “The Complete Guide to Tax Compliance” with a bright red button that says “Download Your Free Copy”, or “Download Now” or simply “Free”.
● Popup Window: A third option, also effective when strategically placed, is the popup window, which can point to your free offer, like a white paper or free demo. Popups are great especially if you offer something like a weekly newsletter with industry tips, where visitors enter an email address and click a “Subscribe” button. If it’s relevant, interesting, and helpful popups are a great tool for capturing warm leads.
Whenever you offer a potential customer something for free, you should direct them to a forms page where you ask for some information in return, such as email address, name, company name, etc. (depending upon how far down the funnel they are. Top of funnel ask only for email address; middle of funnel, ask for name an company name). Only after they fill out the form do they get the free offer.
Landing pages are where customers enter your website when they click through from an ad, email, video, or other marketing piece. They also are the pages you’ve directed customers to from your content hub to receive free offers, like a white paper or free demo of your solution. Landing pages’ primary purpose is to promote your free offers in exchange for the customers’ information.
A landing page needs an appealing design, but one that is simple and straightforward, so the customer knows instinctively what you want them to do.
The most prominent piece of your landing page should be the CTA, most appropriately a button in a color that stands out and that urges action, “Download Now” or “Schedule Free Demo”.
The page also should include a headline that explains why the visitor is there, a concise list of benefits and a graphic element. You also might include a quote or testimonial from someone who used your free product, but don’t get too cluttered. The page also should include a headline that explains why the visitor is there, a concise list of benefits and a graphic element. You also might include a quote or testimonial from someone who used your free product, but don’t get too cluttered.
Popups are another option with landing pages, but realize some visitors might be using popup blockers and others find them annoying, so you don’t want to rely on them exclusively or don’t want them to cover your landing page content.
The page also should be optimized for mobile, as many of your visitors are likely to be linking through on their phones.
Acquire New Customers
We’ve covered a lot of ground on getting visitors into your sales funnel and moving them along in their buyer journey, but not all of these visitors are going to move to the end of your sales funnel and convert to buyers.
In some cases, that’s OK. People are going to exit your sales funnel because they are not your ideal customers. Your service might not meet their pain points.
According to Gleanster Research, only 25 percent of leads are legitimate buyers ready to take action now and should be advanced to your sales team. However, 50 percent of leads are qualified but are not ready to buy at this point. Those are the customers who you don’t want to exit your funnel, nor do you want them hanging in limbo. This is where your marketing team needs to adopt a lead nurturing strategy.
According to Salesforce research, companies that excel at lead nurturing generate 50 percent more sales-ready leads at 33 percent of the cost.
Through lead nurturing, companies use automated email marketing to remain in contact with customers who have reached the middle of the funnel, providing more helpful information and keeping up brand awareness. These automated emails can be sent on a daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly or annual basis, depending upon your buyer persona and their expected response.
The emails provide further education about your field or your service and track recipients’ responses to determine if they are closer to moving into buyer mode. This consistent contact with potential customers can shorten the sales cycle and drive better-qualified leads to your sales team.
The short sequence of eight to 10 emails can be personalized and tracked so the potential customer never sees the same email twice.
Salesforce found that companies that use marketing automation experience 70 percent faster sales and 54 percent improvement in achieving quotas.
Congratulations! You’ve found your ideal customer, walked them through their buyer journey and made the sale. You’ve made it.
But you’re not done yet. Finding new customers costs 4 to 10 times as much as retaining existing customers, so now it’s time to delight your new customer and turn them into a repeat customer.
Every business is bound to lose some customers, but your role now is to make sure you reduce that churn rate by amazing your current customer, keeping them as a customer and even turning them into brand ambassadors.
Maybe you think that’s a customer service issue, but in the current business environment, companies are breaking down the silos and making the customer experience a company-wide concern.
Once you’ve converted a potential customer into a buyer, you don’t want to miss the opportunity to continue to educate them and to learn from them. You’ll want to solicit their feedback on your service and their journey, looking for ways to improve the process.
When you amaze them with your SaaS service, you will build a loyal customer, but also one who will endorse your product and your brand. These people will have influence over others in their industry. Their opinions will sway others to consider and buy your service.
Testimonials and reviews from delighted customers will feedback into your inbound marketing and create more opportunities to gain new customers.
Launching an inbound marketing effort for your SaaS company can seem like a daunting challenge, but when broken down into bite-sized pieces, it can be accomplished over time.
Just remember these basics:
- Defining your buyer persona
- Build your sales funnel
- Create helpful and informative content
- Build a content hub
- Amplify your content
- Syndicate your content
- Remarket to your site visitors
- Create great calls to action and landing pages
- Nurture those leads
- Delight your customers
A commitment to Inbound marketing ensures a solid foundation for growth, pays dividends by pairing you with loyal customers who are delighted with your service, and fuels ongoing growth beyond any other marketing strategy.
Hubspot inbound sales methodology: https://blog.hubspot.com/sales/inboundsales-methodology
Video Marketing: https://blog.hubspot.com/marketing/state-of-video-marketingnew-data
Content Amplification: https://contentmarketinginstitute.com/2017/08/contentamplification-promote-distribute/
Paid, Owned and Earned media: https://blog.hubspot.com/marketing/earned-ownedpaid-media-lead-generation
Google Remarketing: https://support.google.com/googleads/answer/2453998?hl=en
Facebook Remarketing: https://www.facebook.com/business/products/ads/adtargeting
LinkedIn Retargeting: https://business.linkedin.com/marketing-solutions/adtargeting/website-retargeting
Landing Pages: https://neilpatel.com/blog/c-o-n-v-e-r-t-s/
Lead Nurturing: https://www.slideshare.net/Salesforce/20-incredible-marketingautomation-stats/6-Companies_that_excel_at_lead