Category Archives: Technology

Inbound Marketing for SaaS: A Perfect Mutual Fit

This post was originally published on LinkedIn.

Remember the days before the Internet? Well if you were born in the pre-Internet era, you might have blurred memories wrapped into your collective psyche on how marketing was back then. Those were the fanciful days before Google, websites, and social media.

As marketing evolved, brands found themselves in a dire need for a low-cost customer acquisition engine. Inbound marketing is that digital marketing model that specializes in attracting website visitors, turning them into leads and nurturing them well enough to convert them into happy customers and further into brand promoters or evangelists.

Setting up your SaaS company for success would call for your attention to both quick wins and long-haul strategies. As a SaaS marketer, you need to implement targeted marketing strategies for highest online conversions.

The SaaS Challenge

Gartner report forecasts SaaS to be at $75.7bn by 2020. This gigantic increase equates to massive competition for SaaS startups, and that adds to the need for your brand to edge out the competition and acquire new customers, while reducing the churn and attaining long-term profits. Further, a Compass study shows that SaaS is growing nearly 3X as fast as software as a whole, and that 72% of all SaaS startups are at least partially funded.

The success of your SaaS company would depend on:

  • Whether you’re able to adopt a low-cost customer acquisition model effectively from the early stages
  • Ability to retain customers over a long span
  • Ability to upsell to customers over time

Now, let’s get to the heart of the SaaS challenge. Most SaaS CEOs cite “cash flow gap” as a grave challenge. Inbound marketing works well to combat this challenge for the SaaS startups. The good news is that inbound marketing has quickly emerged as the right playbook for SaaS companies that rely on a user’s relationship with the software for success (or failure).

A good number of brands like ShopifyBufferKissmetricsAnswerDashZenDesk, to name a few, have attained success with it. However apart from the previously mentioned challenge, I also see some other challenges that obstruct SaaS companies to do marketing right.

  • Not believing in what they’re doing
  • Hiring mediocre talent
  • Being too self-promotional and brand centric
  • Directly targeting the BoFU with free trials/demos, etc.
  • Insufficient time and effort investment into analytics

The Secret Sauce for SaaS Companies

The answer is plain simple – complete focus on customer happiness right from the first touch point until the last to fetch both – revenues and profitability. And, inbound marketing just does that. It helps you find qualified leads, patch them with the sales rep-cum-consultants, convert them into customers and retain them over a long term – a challenge inherent in the SaaS business model. As a result, close rates go up and cost per lead comes down.

The SaaS long game and Inbound Fit

Life Time Value (LTV) = ARPA (Average Revenue Per Account)*% Gross Margin / % Monthly Recurring Revenue (MRR)

The SaaS industry is often abuzz with the discussions around customer lifetime value (LTV).

The longer the customer stays with you, the more is the LTV. It’s a long game, indeed. And, the same holds true for inbound marketing too.

Rome Wasn’t Built in a Day

The best SaaS marketers do, indeed, love to play a good long game. Even when they get off to a sluggish start, they do not retreat. In fact, they multiply their efforts. In fact, Sebastian Gutierrez (a member of HubSpot’s nonprofit team) says, “Becoming a trusted authority doesn’t happen with one banner ad or annual report. Succeeding with inbound marketing takes consistent effort over the long haul. Inbound really is the only marketing that’s proven to be cost-effective, yet it takes time to see results.”

The SaaS Inbound Journey

Clement Vouillon has remarkably captured a “typical” Inbound Marketing journey that an early stage SaaS company might experience.

Stage 1: Preparation / Beginning Phase

Most SaaS startups often kick start inbound marketing with limited resources, with founders as the blog authors, who love to talk about their babies (I mean products here!). That’s a classical mistake indeed. Your blog is out there to help your target audience and not for blowing your own trumpet (though it might sound tempting or obvious). Inbound marketing is all about being helpful through content. It ought to be customer centric.

Stage 2: Disappointment

You’ve pulled the content gear but you don’t yet see traffic increasing, and it’s natural to feel that your inbound marketing efforts are not working out. It’s time to actually chart out an effective plan to content distribution and then implement it efficiently.

Many marketers have been observed not investing efforts in content promotion. They seem to harbor a misconception that only writing remarkable content will do the job and that they can relax after production. It’s to be remembered that distributing or promoting the content is equally important for your useful content assets to be discovered by your target audience on their preferred choice of platforms.

Stage 3: Growth

You’re thorough with all the best practices, tips and hacks on content production and distribution. It’s time to adapt to each of the platforms where you intend to promote your content and invest your efforts in getting more people to see your content. Slowly, you start getting to see the increasing number of views, likes, share or comments in response to your posts across different platforms. The key to magic is here to be creative and bold. Don’t fear from being experimental.

Stage 4: Stagnation

You will see increased traffic to your website, content assets and social media posts; however, the conversions might suck and do not seem to improve over time. That’s when fatigue might set in your team to see what strategy worked for you some time ago is no longer effective now. Your inspiration well also might start to dry up. This is a signal to take a step back, deliberate before you burn out and tweak your inbound marketing strategy

Stage 5: Strategy reboot

By the time you reach this stage, you would have acquired good amount of knowledge about your customers and industry as a whole, and you’d be infusing all your knowledge into your marketing game but still not seeing the desired results. It’s time to reboot your marketing strategy and consider:

  • Sending your corporate newsletter
  • Collect more feedback through emails/blogs
  • Investing more on the SEO front for the long-term gains
  • Devising and implementing more customer-centric campaigns
  • Repurpose your most valuable content assets in different digestible formats
  • Participate and add value on different social media groups and forums
  • Nurture your leads with value-added content
  • Hire skilled and adaptable generalists and specialists

Stage 6: Growth

If by now you have learned from your past mistakes, organized your affairs again and pulled the inbound gears again in the right direction, you will again witness the spur in growth. Enjoy the success!

With this, it’s time to look at these two SaaS inbound marketing myths that I feel the need to bust here:

Myth 1: Inbound marketing is free

Agreed. You can produce and publish content, optimize content to boost traffic and conversions with little investment. However, creating a long-term, solid inbound marketing strategy and roadmap is NOT free. You need to manage and maintain your website, you need resources (team and tools) to connect and engage with your target audience. All this won’t be free.

Myth 2: One person can do all inbound marketing

It’s not uncommon to see many CEOs getting pumped up about inbound marketing to grow their businesses. But here’s the shocker! One marketing hire to do it all. Inbound marketing is basically a culmination of different skill sets – content writing, SEO, social media, website design and development, analytics, video marketing, etc., – all rolled into one. It’s practically impossible to find one person adept at all of these skill sets. You need a team. A real good one to rock the inbound marketing stage.

What other tips or feedback would you add to this post? I would love to hear your thoughts and comments below!


Modern Consumer’s Buying Behavior Has Changed: Has Your Marketing?

pre roll ads

5 … 4 … 3 … 2 … Skip Ad > >

I so hate this drill, especially when I hop on to YouTube to watch a Tom Cruise video. I literally despise these pre-roll ads. These ads are so annoyingly right in my face.

I didn’t log in to YouTube to watch a father scolding his son for losing his laptop and then the son buying a refurbished laptop from a popular ecommerce website (Ad Name: “As Good as New”). Though I’m an online shopaholic but at my own convenience and desired time. I mean I don’t love that shopping portal enough to come in between Tom Cruise (virtually) and me and hamper my video-watching experience like that.

I hate such brands that do NOT seek my permission and expose me to their marketing messages hundred times a day. This triggers a barrage of questions in my mind about their marketing strategy (and their marketers in particular!).

I feel so fortunate as a marketer in my career to have seen traditional marketing getting redundant and less effective in the last decade and subsequently wiped out by permission-based marketing in last 2-3 years. According to an Adobe study, marketing has changed more in the last 2 years than in the last 50 years.

As marketers, we need to acknowledge and respect the fact that with technology adoption gaining pace with each passing day, people are are getting better at blocking out these interruptions.

  • TV ads…We’ve TiVO/DVRs to skip advertisements. I so love Netflix’s House of Cards, free of advertising.
  • Radio ads…Users have XM/Sirius Radio/Pandora/Spotify to cut their advertising reach
  • Unsolicited (cold calls)…Fortunately, we’ve national Do Not Call Registry.
  • Spammy emails ….I routinely employ spam filters.

As a matter of fact, a large number of organizations are still not convinced about the merits of permission-based marketing for two reasons:

  • Their otherwise expensive outbound methods have fetched results for them so far. So new approach means new risk to revenues. And, not many are risk takers.
  • Permission-based marketing requires investment in terms of resources, effort, time and money. And, most of all, PATIENCE for long-term rewards.

So, such brands resort to “spray and pray approach” and thus still do “batch and blast” email campaigns and pray for leads online. And when the results do not pour in, it feels like as depicted in the picture below.


I love this brilliant quote from Dharmesh Shah, cofounder HubSpot

The bottom line is that people are now wary of traditional outbound marketing messages and adept at blocking outbound marketers out. Netizens now learn about and shop from brands in a new way – through search engines, blogosphere and social media sites.

To be successful in today’s times, we need to match our marketing mannerisms to the way our prospects gather information and shop for our products.


Generate leads through #Inbound marketing and target customers with relevance marketing.


Options for marketers:

Top 3 Personalization Strategies for Non-Retail Applications

2014 was an incredibly exciting year for mobile apps. With a huge advantage of personalization that mobile apps offer over mobile websites, even the most well-known  brick-and-mortar stores have geared their attention to developing more mobile applications in 2015. Using these apps, these stores successfully leverage proximity functions like geolocation, push notifications, etc.  to deliver mesmerising personalized experiences to shoppers, who so obsessively clutch their smartphones these days.

Many personalization platforms today emphasize primarily on retail mobile apps. But non-retail mobile apps can also keep their user community engaged. Read this post further to explore the different personalization strategies that work greatly for non-retail apps.


Many developers feel reluctant to dive into creating apps for non-retail businesses fearing from the exercise of collecting humongous customer data and developing big algorithms. Nevertheless, it’s a myth that we will debunk in this post.

Here are the top 3 personalization strategies for non-retail content.

1. Geolocation content

This is one of the great ways to personalize content. As majority of smartphones html_geolocation_apihave in-built geolocation features, you can easily target users with newsfeed and even connect them with other users in proximity with same interests. One of the brilliant examples to quote here is that of iBeacon that enables mobile apps with its Bluetooth Low Energy technology to understand the location well and deliver relevant and contextual content to user based on location.

2. Recommendations

The better you understand a customer, the better and more educated Recommended_stamprecommendations, you can offer to your customers/online store visitors. You can extract useful information from your customers during the sign up process or even later interactions with your website. You can use this information for effective customer profiling when they start downloading and using your mobile app. You can track your customers across:

  • User sign up process
  • Browsing history
  • User generated content like tweets, comments, favorites, likes, etc.
  • User preferences
  • Ratings and reviews

Once you’ve these data points, you can design a better user experience for your customers. Using the user feedback when they browse through your mobile app, you can refine your app further.

3. UGC

Often, etailers commit the blooper of looking upon personalization as a duty touser_generated_content deliver user experience. Personalization also entails the content and contribution of users to shopping environment. While you take all the necessary steps to offer personalization such as collecting customer data, monitoring their interactions with your ecommerce website and accordingly offer relevant and contextual product recommendations to them. You can let users contribute to your personalization strategy through a mobile application. Your private labelled application can serve as a powerful platform for users to connect and engage with your brand, pitch their opinion and experience. This will empower your users to generate their own personalized content and experience.

Let’s take the example of app, a beautifully designed mobile application that makes it easy for users to discover music from the best collection of national and international playlists. Here users take the music listening experience to a new level by creating/modifying playlists depending on their genres/moods.

Such mobile apps enable users to feel valued and ask for their contribution to make it more interesting a platform to visit and revisit to generate more user generated content and get their varied needs addresses on the online platform. It offers them highly personalized experiences.

Enterprise Mobility: Is it a Winning Proposition in 2015?

For years, enterprise mobility was related to email, some flashy apps and corporate-issued devices. And during this phase, most organizations considered mobile as simply an extension of the desktop. But now with corporate mobility momentum picking up, companies are beginning to realize the potential of mobile more strategically by understanding varied business contexts and embracing a persona-guided approach. This evolved mobile approach addresses the needs of all user profiles effectively inside (better employee productivity) and outside (better customer engagement) the organization.

Let’s have a look at what Mary Meeker (also dubbed as the “Queen of the Net”) has to say about mobile internet usage. As per her recent predictions, mobile internet usage is picking up noticeably faster than desktop internet usage did and by 2015, “more users will connect to the internet over mobile devices than desktop PCs.” Businesses that will catch up on this trend will win, and those that overlook it will lose.


Mobility isn’t just an add-on capability; it’s much more than that. It encompasses apps, and devices, software platforms, architectures and databases. As an enterprise, you can’t continue with your piecemeal methodology for managing the mobile environment any longer. Since every persona (employees, customers and partners) represents a unique context, the mobility needs are diverse.

The IBM survey of 600 companies across 29 countries unravels an astonishing fact – only 50% of the companies (with more than $500 million in annual revenues) have comprehensive, strong mobile strategies in place to address the challenge of mobility implementation and leverage mobile opportunities fully. Enterprises, should, therefore start looking at mobility through a persona-centric lens and adopt a holistic mobile business model to drive high performance and gain competitive advantage.

Out with the Old

Mobile revolution has completely gripped the IT landscape and blended into nearly every aspect of your business. This ubiquity of smartphones, tablets and other mobile devices and consumerization of IT have urged enterprises to adapt to a dynamic environment in which they need to support employees, customers and partners – all with unique set of mobile requirements. Hence, it’s critical for organizations to incorporate all key drivers of mobility into their strategy to optimize the required business functions and applications.

Enterprise (B2B and B2E) vs. Consumer mobile applications

Technology and market forces are the two important factors that drive enterprise mobility. With enterprise mobility focusing on front-user interfacing apps, many brands have switched on from traditional emailing to addressing the end user’s mobility needs with persona-based mobility solutions.

With multiple mobile personas for enterprises to handle, enterprises have a gargantuan task of crafting mobile strategies and applications for different platforms and programming languages.  44% of U.S. enterprises are mainly focused on building mobile applications for native devices (e.g., iOS, Android, Microsoft), and 39% that are focused on mobile web development.

To address the mobility needs of each persona, enterprises need to understand the various user profiles and their relationships and behaviors w.r.t different business processes (like talent management, sales, delivery, etc.) and subsets. There is a huge difference in developing and deploying mobile capabilities for enterprise-based and consumer-based relationships.

Enterprise apps Vs. Consumer apps






Enterprise Mobile Applications

  • Not commonly found in app stores; most enterprises get their own apps built
  • Built to run on all platforms -Android, iOS, Windows, and BlackBerry
  • Utilitarian; simplify the business processes
  • Loaded with ultimate security features (passwords, encryption/decryption, MDM)
  • Native or cross platform (facilitating BYOD) compatible mobile apps
  • Focus on boosting employee collaboration and productivity, targeted marketing
  • g., CRM apps, marketing and analytic apps, sales force automation, collaboration apps, technical computing apps, payroll apps, etc.

Consumer Mobile Applications

  • Easily available in app stores
  • Built to run on all platforms -Android, iOS, Windows, and BlackBerry
  • Packed with emotional designs to attract customers
  • Loaded with generic functions and data
  • Standalone app or integrated to a backend
  • g., Social-based applications, combined mobility applications, geo-mapping services, edutainment apps, mobile wallet, etc.

The Time to Tap the Power of Personalization is now!

As fast as the modern retail environment continues to advance, the competition is getting really tougher. The multiple device types and screen sizes customers use to shop online add to this complexity even further. This has posed some intense challenges in front of e-sellers to adapt to the changing customer shopping behavior and engage with them across this myriad range of omni channels. Almost 200 million US consumers shop online now; an increase in 20% in just half a decade.


Now the question is – should emerchants like you to get personal with customers? The answer is – it’s time to get started right away! Many online retailers have witnessed a significant spike in metrics after they personalized shopping experiences for customers they serve. According to Forrester, personalization is now the top priority for 55% of retailers. Here are the some supporting statistics to understand how customer behavior has fueled this trend:

  • 59% of online shoppers believe that it is easier to find more interesting products on a personalized online retail store.
  • 56% are more likely to visit again the same retail store.
  • 40% indicate they buy more from retailers, who personalize the shopping experience.
  • 51% are willing to share data to receive a better shopping experience.


Personalization in ecommerce store can be equated with a customer’s interaction with the sales staff in store. On repeat visits, the sales executive might know and understand your shopping preferences well, and can help you with your shopping next time you visit the store or even pre-emptively notify you of the discounts or new arrivals. This creates a long-lasting shopping experience in your mind.

Replicating this kind of memorable shopping experience forms the core of personalization in an ecommerce store. This is significant for both – the retailer and the customer. However, personalization can be successfully accomplished only by those e-sellers, who can skillfully use personalization algorithms to their advantage.

Retailers can segregate their personalization plan into different phases that include:

  • Navigational personalization
  • Customer-specific personalization
  • Personalization using third-party data
  • Predictive personalization
  • Catering to a segment of one


Retailers can practice personalization everywhere across the complete spectrum of customer’s shopping journey:

As customers’ choices vary, each ecommerce store aspires to connect and engage with every customer individually by using recommendation tools or custom product-building tools. Modern retailer see personalization as the key to unlocking the door to a shopping experience that customers can remember and cherish, and maximizing ROIs for retailers and improving business performance manifold.

2014 Rings in. Best Apps to help you keep Your New Year’s Resolutions


Happy New Year to all!

It’s 2014 in India and many other places on the “other side” of the International Date Line.

As the New Day and New Year dawn around the world, it’s time for all desk-bound keyboard-toilers (including me!), to draw up our list of resolutions that will make 2014 our best year ever.

I know, I know… we’re terrible at keeping New Year’s resolutions. Shocker! For years in a row, only a few resolutions on the entire list barely last for more than a week. Let’s embrace technology to hold our resolutions together longer. Here are some quick-hit resolutions and cool apps that we can check off in 2014:

Keep the Weight Off

Eat wise, drop a size. All diet plans, nutritionist’s advice boil down to the same weigh-loss-new-year-resolutionsthing: Eat right and exercise well. Meet only your real calorific needs. Check your calories intake and burn out rate. So here are a couple of the obligatory weight loss apps of the bunch – Lose It! from FitNow (free for iOS and Android; for more granularity, “premium” extras available for $40/year), Eat This, Not That! (free app) and Calorie Counter  from MyNetDiary ($3.99).

# Get Organized 

There ought to be a place for everything, and everything in its place since it saves you ideas and time to boost your productivity. Try out these apps for get-organized-apps-evernoteorganizing your day-to-day life better – Evernote (an easy-to-use, free app that allows you to take notes, save photos, make to-do lists, record voice reminders – everything on the go; available on iOSAndroidBlackberry). Another app is Things. Available on the Mac App store, Things is an easy-to-use task manager that segments your projects into different milestones, lets you schedule the tasks and puts forth the checklist of the top priority tasks. Things syncs across all your Apple devices and helps you become more efficient as you keep accomplish your goals that come more naturally – one to-do at a time.

Scale Greater Career Heights

Your job sucks. So does your boss. Fret not! 2014 might be a turning point in career-job-hunt-appsyour career. Here’s the savior app – Job Search by Indeed. This is a free app available on iOS and Android. As a highest rated tool on Apple’s and Google’s app stores, Job Search helps you scour through its 15 millions+ job database, and helps you meet potential employers in just a few taps on your smartphone screen. You can sort the jobs by relevance or date, GPS-related location, etc. You can also personalize your account to display only the jobs from your preferred employers or companies.

# Manage your Finances

Get your personal finances in order. Mint’s the best app, hands down! Available Finance appsfor free on iOS and Android, Mint is an award-winning finance app with rave reviews on the App stores. Considered as the finest budgeting app, Mint allows you to budget, monitor and manage your money from a single interface. You can open an account and link it to your bank, credit, loan and retirement accounts. This app will then auto-categorize transactions) and then auto-collate all information in easy-to-digest graphical representations. It’s indeed a safe and reliable tool to keep your personal finances organized.

I know sticking to these goals can be hard to accomplish but hopefully your iOS, Android or tablet will empower you this year to keep these New Year resolutions. With this information handy, it’s time to mentally gird yourself to keep the New Year Resolutions in 2014.  I’d love to hear your New Year resolutions in the comments box below.

I wish you all a blissful year ahead.