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July 26, 2019 Marketing

How to Implement Inbound Marketing as a SaaS Company

Jim Ward wearing a gray button-up shirt with his arms crossed.
By Jim Ward

It’s not unusual for SaaS companies to come to us with questions about developing a marketing strategy. Marketing outreach can be very tricky in a marketplace that’s over-saturated with SaaS products and services — which is why a lot of people use inbound marketing strategies to flip the script and attract prospect who will reach out to them instead. One of the most common questions that we get right off the bat is: “How do I implement inbound marketing as a SaaS company?”

Oh boy. Where do I begin?

First off, this is much harder to answer without more context around who you are, what your role is, what your business is like, and how far along you are in your inbound marketing journey. Many clients ask this and expect a quick-and-dirty answer that will solve all their problems, but there are literal books written on this topic. It’s not a quick-and-dirty question. So before I dive in, here’s a disclaimer: make peace with the fact that implementing this methodology takes time. This is not an overnight change. It’s hard work. It requires team effort and all your employees need to be on board with the inbound philosophy (especially marketing folks).

The other thing to keep in mind is that not every business should have the same inbound marketing program! Take your specific processes and business goals into consideration before implementation. My suggestion is to invest in a change management service provider. If you have a change management expert already within your business, now is their time to shine. If you don’t have one, you should really look into a third-party consulting firm or service provider. I cannot stress enough the value of a change management expert to oversee implementation of a new organization-wide methodology. If you want this to count, do it right.

Now let’s dive in. Here’s a light overview of the main inbound marketing principles and how to start implementing them:

Start a thorough website optimization project.

  • For any organization, the website is gateway to lead generation. This is especially true for SaaS, since customers will associate the user-interface of your website immediately with user-interface of your products. If your website sucks, they’ll suspect your products might too. Make sure your website is clean, aesthetically-pleasing, on-brand, easy to use, and isn’t slow or buggy. Your website is like your organization’s personality. And you can only make a good first impression once. Turns out that 39% of customers who had a bad experience on your website won’t return for another two years.
  • You’ll also want to conduct a full SEO optimization of your site, complete with keyword optimization and backlinks from respectable sites. Unless you have website engineers, marketing analysts, and design experts on hand, you’ll probably have to go to a third-party provider and solicit an assessment and redesign services from them. It’s worth it.

Generate creative, interesting, and informative content.

  • This is so important. Don’t rewrite similar blogposts or articles from other sites. (Sidebar: this is clearly plagiarism and customers can see right through it). There’s nothing wrong with doing research and gathering sources, but you need a content producer(s) to be able to generate original content with meaningful insights, analysis, or additional information that people will find interesting or helpful. By providing valuable content, you inspire readers to engage with your organization.
  • Vary your content! Man cannot live on blogposts alone. Try infographics, videos, how-to guides, interactive multimedia pieces, word clouds, quizzes, and more.
  • Invest in good content producers.
    • Pro Tip: I try to hire content producers with journalistic experience, as they tend to deliver better content. For SaaS, you might consider someone with science journalism or tech writing experience.

Revamp your social media presence and spruce up your toolbox.

  • SaaS is a different beast than most organizations, who will need to focus on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter. While you should probably maintain these accounts, you should focus more of your efforts on LinkedIn, Reddit, GitHub, Spiceworks, TechDiscussion, or similar forum-based sites. Answering questions, discussing technology trends, and engaging with end-users will draw more attention to your organization than a tweet lost to the Twittersphere.
    • Don’t push your products or services too much. You need to be perceived as an expert, not a salesperson.

Run co-marketing campaigns with other businesses.

  • Collaborating with other businesses, partners, stakeholders, or former/current clients is an amazing way to show customers that you’re an unbiased and down-to-earth organization who prioritizes their success over your own. Make sure collaborators will complement you – not outshine or compete with you.
  • A couple of co-marketing examples:
    • Joint webinar
    • Joint research or whitepapers
    • Case study content – video, written, etc.
    • Product or service kits featuring collaborator’s offerings

Last but not least: optimize your technology stack.

  • You should probably invest in marketing automation software (MA). Inbound marketing works best when it’s supported by data, metrics, and concrete information about buyer demographics, behaviors, and experiences. It’s unbelievably difficult to gather, store, or leverage any of this for your marketing programs unless you are using some kind of MA to capture it.
  • SaaS businesses can really benefit from MA because it helps you determine which leads are a better fit for your software before you even sell to them. (Here’s some great literature on this subject). If someone buys an uncomfortable pair of shoes, it doesn’t impact their life all that much. But a bad software fit can have unforeseeable and devastating consequences for customers, especially if they’re using it for personal or professional reasons.
  • A couple of the many perks of MA:
    • Automated workflows to increase feature adoption and reduce churn, which affects your bottom line
    • Lead scoring and documented pipeline stages to identify the customers who need a little TLC
    • Automated emails and other messages that trigger based on account health, feature adoption, and hundreds of other factors
    • Personalized communication for customers to improve their buying experience and build relationships with them

Other things to consider for your inbound marketing implementation.

  • Creating buyer personas – tons of resources for doing this, especially for SaaS businesses
  • Conducting surveys and original research to better understand your business’s buyer journey
  • Inbound lead nurture training for sales and marketing folks
  • Retargeting/remarketing customer research
  • Building relationships with influences and thought leaders in the SaaS space – they can provide advice and possibly marketing opportunities

I want to state again that every business is different. Internal processes vary. So this list may not be exactly what you’ll need to kick-start an inbound marketing program. And it’s by no means exhaustive. But it’s a start! If you have any further questions, feel free to reach out to us and chat about your marketing goals.


 

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Jim Ward

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Jim Ward wearing a gray button-up shirt with his arms crossed.

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