Apr 9, 2015 12:00:00 AM
Inbound marketing is about attracting qualified leads to your SaaS startup by creating content designed specifically for your target market. It’s a strategy that focuses on being helpful and relevant over being disruptive and invasive. Once leads arrive at your site, your content, digital communications, and free trial turn them into paying customers and brand advocates.
According to Gartner, the market for SaaS (Software as a Service) applications will grow to $33 billion in 2016.
This level of growth means that competition will inevitably increase for SaaS startups, and the pressure is on to differentiate your brand, acquire new customers, decrease churn, increase conversions/sign-ups/demos/customers and achieve long-term profitability. The good news is that we've observed an increasing number of SaaS startups successfully edge out the competition and grow their companies by embracing inbound marketing.
Inbound marketing works well for SaaS startups for a number of reasons. For starters, it has a lower customer acquisition cost compared to traditional advertising, and it allows companies to reach a wider audience with a decreased total spend. Inbound marketing also shortens the sales cycle and increases conversions by preparing prospects to sign up for a free trial or make a buying decision before they reach the sales team. In short, it's a very effective strategy that can help SaaS companies acquire and retain customers, reach profitability more quickly, and achieve long-term success.
1. Provide original content for new and existing customers. Original content is the crux of an effective inbound marketing strategy. To acquire new customers, provide success stories; case studies; and genuinely helpful articles that offer solutions to the challenges faced by your target market. To retain and upsell existing customers, provide in-depth resources with best practices, new features, and tips to get the most out of their software investment.
We recommend beginning by researching the keywords your audience is searching for, using a tool like Adwords or SEM Rush. Build your content around those topics and aim to publish a minimum of three times a week to accumulate a substantial amount of qualified traffic over time. Test and improve the topics you cover and titles of articles to build the right visibility in various marketing channels--search and social media.
2. Use gated content to generate qualified leads. Gated content is a piece of premium content that visitors can only access if they fill out a form and provide information, including their contact information, job title, location, and company name. Once they've completed the form, the prospect can access the content, and your company can use the provided information to nurture the lead with targeted communications.
The most successful SaaS startups we work with offer a wealth of online resources, white papers, and in-depth guides that provide real value to their prospects and require an email address to download. When creating your gated content, we recommend aiming to solve customer problems; provide value; overcome sales objections; and demonstrate how your software benefits your target market.
3. Promote your content using social networks, your website, and paid ads. To begin, share your content across the major social networks – including LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook – and ask your advocates and influencers to do the same. Also promote your content on your website, in email newsletters, and at the bottom of your blog posts using call-to-actions.
Next, leverage pay-per-click (PPC) ads to drive increased traffic to your site as a supplement to Inbound efforts. Target the keywords your audience is searching for and configure your PPC ads to send visitors to your website’s gated content landing pages. Once they arrive, they’ll be prompted to enter their information to gain access. You can also use gated content with the help of progressive profiling using a marketing automation system to drive leads further into the qualification funnel.
4. Nurture leads until they are marketing qualified. Marketing qualified means that a lead is more likely to become a paying customer when compared to other leads, based on activities, demographics, and behaviors. They are considered high-quality leads that are ready to be engaged by the sales team.
Once visitors provide their email addresses in exchange for your gated content, it's time to nurture those leads until they become marketing qualified. To begin, continue to send them helpful, educational resources on topics they'll find interesting or useful. Next, guide them towards additional gated content related to the ins and outs of your software.
For example, industry-specific case studies, pricing sheets, documents that overcome sales objections, and white papers on the benefits of your software. Once a lead downloads that additional gated content, they are considered marketing qualified. Alternatively, you can also identify a marketing qualified lead based on the information they've provided. For example, if they have a particular job title, work in a particular industry, or are employed by a particular company, they may be considered ready to be engaged by the sales team.
5. Convert with a free trial of your software. Your next step is to guide marketing qualified leads towards signing up for a free trial of your software. We recommend sending content that demonstrates the value of the free trial and explains what users can expect. Once they sign up, send personalized communications to offer assistance, provide targeted resources, and help them get the most out of their trial offer.
Gartner, Forecast: Software as a Service, All Regions, 2010 – 2015, 1H12 Update, https://www.gartner.com/newsroom/id/1963815
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