Mon, Mar 21, 2016

How to Create an Inbound Marketing Strategy for SaaS Companies


How to Create an Inbound Marketing Strategy for SaaS Companies

Software companies often offer sophisticated products, with short sales cycles, using technical jargon and reviewing their offer day-by-day with updates.That is why inbound marketing is one of the best ways to market your product because its all about selling not just your product or service, but your expertise.

Congratulations. Your team has worked on an innovative software solution that will significantly improve the way industry does its business.

Now, all you have to do is to market and sell it.

However, when we work on intangible products or services, creating a marketing campaign is not that easy.

Software-as-a-Service companies (SaaS) are increasingly gaining track in different industries. They are hardworking companies with knowledge-based, scalable solutions whose digital branding opportunities are quite a challenge.

With a tangible asset such as a hardware product, getting to know the customer is easier. When you work with an intangible, you need to make sure that the attributes of your company –its team, its values, its expertise, its solutions- is embedded in your brand.

How?

  1.    Know your potential customers and their barriers

The inbound marketing process is that it's customer-centric instead of focused on the product. If your work as a Business to Business (B2B) developer, you may have a limited number of potential customers: they are particular representatives of specific businesses. Therefore, they don’t just show up at a shopping mall or at a convention to browse for options.

Leverage for any software product is educating your potential users, whether they are individual consumers or companies:

  •    Find out how your target companies are organized internally and whether you need to work with IT managers or professionals, CIOs, marketing executives or users without technical expertise.
  •     Identify which type of person at the company is reluctant to integrate your services.

Then, you let them find you online.

Rather than buying an online ad or space, inbound marketing engages visitors with powerful content: informative blogs, ebooks, presentations and webinars built around the attraction, engagement and delight of leads and customers.

Know your potential customers challenges, pain points, goals, consequences of them achieving their targets, and the consequences of missing them. This is the information SaaS companies need to know to be able to educate their customers.  
Traditional marketing practices might help you educate potential customers about software features and benefits, but Inbound Marketing intelligence helps you tailor the message to the people.  

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  1.    Develop online relationships with potential customers

There is a common practice among start-up managers and marketing executives. They buy a contact list with names, job descriptions and email addresses, mass-upload them through a software and then bombard unknown contacts with product information.

A traditional email marketer or salesperson would call this “direct mailing marketing”, hoping that a rate of those people, actually read the email and get in touch.

When they get home, they open their inbox, look through their junk mail and spam folder, and immediately delete it.

Funnily enough, they were probably part of their own direct mailing contact list and never realized it.

An effective Inbound Marketing Strategy is to build and grow your own contacts database of qualified leads who found your engaging and educational content when they were searching online about their challenges and pain points they are experiencing and decide to subscribe to the blog, or download your educational content.

With a more accurate contacts database -comprised of people who actually want to learn from you- you can have an effective email marketing strategy. This one is centered on nurturing leads along the buyer’s journey, a decision-making process every customer makes from the time they realize they have a problem or need a solution, to the moment they engage a company that offers it, up until they have a conversation with their post-sales representatives.

By qualifying potential customers in the right manner, you can actually engage them with more personalized educational content that is relevant to their buyer journey stage and their goals, and move them further down the sales funnel

  1.    Market your knowledge

This is perhaps one of the most challenging parts of marketing a software solution. You’ve worked months on a new SaaS project and spent years studying in college to get the level of knowledge you have. People may feel reluctant to give away their know-how or expertise online, ready for other innovators or competitors to “pick your brain.”

Nothing can be further from the truth. Your brand is not only your software but your knowledge and capacity to optimize your customer’s needs with a particular service. This includes a projection of your sense of identity and reputation. It’s the leverage that makes people choose one software service before another one.

You need to position your business and their representatives as experts within the industry and use:

  •    Blogs to find potential leads, to speak about the industry, the issues your customers face and solutions they may find helpful for their day-to-day problems.
  •    Ebooks or webinars, to motivate registrations, to address in detail issues from the industry.
  •    White papers, to nurture your leads and speak about product specifications or customization guides.
  1.    Put your product aside for a while, and focus on its user

Your marketing team may be getting leads. You may be eager to send right away a product catalog. Hold on. An online marketing strategy needs to address your customer’s timing. When using the services of a SaaS supplier, customers engage in a very long process of deliberation, including whether or not they can try an in-house solution before finding an outside expert.

If your product is too specific and provides a solution to a very complex problem, you need to provide orientations. Your potential customers are probably not aware yet of their benefits.

Make sure you address broader issues within your industry before focusing on your product at hand. Comment on updates and industry news. Perhaps a potential customer is not looking directly for your product but wants to be updated about your field of expertise.

  1.    Segment your customers.

We have spoken before about buyer personas. They are fictional representations of your potential customers, regarding their job description, challenges, and needs, with their motivations and values. This is important to refine your content to reach the right audience and increase your conversions into leads. When those personas are defined, you can segment your contact list, and tailor specific messages to their concerns.

  •  Some people may be the direct users of your software. You need to engage them on the issues they are concerned about, that their software addresses. They may need to optimize a management system, create a system to organize bulks of information, or visualize in everyday language crucial information to make a decision.
  • Other buyer personas may not use your software directly, but are engaged in paying for it or are indirectly benefited by its use. Speak about their concerns regarding costs or economies of scale.
  •    Other people are your “devil’s advocate”, and may oppose resistance on using your solutions, as they believe they are not needed or are too costly. Address their concerns.
  1.    Use your social media well

Sometimes LinkedIn, Facebook or Twitter offers can become annoying if they’re not properly used. However, your customers’ decision-making process is highly embedded in interactions with their peers, industry representatives and your own competitors, who are already there. Tailor your social media plan to your product and buyer persona:

  •     A restaurant or a travel site can leverage very well on Instagram, but since your product is a service, you haven't got pictures to show.
  •    Managers may not use Facebook for business information and keep their profile on a personal level.
  •    B2B  is embedded in LinkedIn groups, sharing input, finding new business partners and contacts.
  •    Twitter is a great gatekeeper for particular industry news.

Make sure you address the concerns of all networks that apply, linking the content you publish on social media with your website, product offers or specific blogs.

Make some time, and communicate with clients or prospects in their social media communities.

  1.    Test at all times how you do

You know pretty well about a continuous improvement cycle. Make sure you’re continually evaluating your approaches. Perhaps you need to input more data or engage in more opinions in your blog. Maybe the buyer persona needs another angle, and you need to speak about the financial and commercial issues of the industry.

A great asset is the use of search engine terms or keywords as:

  • A reference to the trending topics for the industry,
  • A viewpoint on what your buyer personas are looking for.
  • A search engine optimization tool (SEO) to improve your traffic through web browser searches.

Make sure you check them frequently.

Learn how Inbound can grow your company

  1.    Take care of your existing customers

Sometimes, marketing and sales focus on the lead and, once they have done a service level agreement, it’s the job of technical expertise and engineers.

Don’t take them for granted. Nowadays, the expansion and scalability of SaaS have customers hunting for customized solutions as they go. They may be looking for alternatives at the same time they are working with you, or considering they are ready to work on-site. Be mindful of early detecting issues they may have with your services or solutions they may be looking elsewhere.

One of the best ways to promote is the word-to-mouth. So if your customer is happy, they may want to propose your service to a friend or another area of their company.

What concerns do you have about adopting inbound marketing? Do you find it suitable to market your particular services? We appreciate your comments.


Ismail Aly
Ismail Aly    

Inbound Marketing & Sales Enablement Consultant, HubSpot User Group Leader, HubSpot Platinum Partner