Tag Archives: inbound marketing

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!

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No or Incorrect Buyer Personas = Failed Marketing. Really?

Marketing Segmentation

You already know it. Powered by the interactive technologies, the buying process has completely changed and the power has shifted toward the buyer.  The marketer-centric, one-way marketing tactics that focus on pushing out mute marketing messages in the face of the potential customers are increasingly becoming ineffective and more expensive.

The rules have changed. Those of us, who are still confused about the path ahead, it’s time to bid adieu to the “four P’s” of our traditional marketing education and unlearn what marketing tactics used to work a decade or two ago. The modern marketing and sales gyrate only around your Buyer. He’s the hero of the story. No brainer there!

Buyer persona is therefore the key to transform your vague marketing into valuable marketing.

Love this tweet by:

Buyer personas form an indispensable part of the inbound marketing strategy. Without the complete understanding of your buyer persona, marketing team can never create remarkable and tailored content for the buyers in the different stages of the buying process. Basically, the non-existence or buyer personas or the use of an incorrect persona (if at all it’s there) leads to a plothole (as rightly mentioned in the tweet above). And with such a plothole, it’s hard to imagine favorable marketing outcomes.

How no or incorrect buyer personas equal doomed marketing?

  • No/Wrong Buyer personas = Failed Content Strategy

Marketing isn’t art but science. Its success is more rooted in logic than luck. By now, most organizations are convinced about the power of content in marketing today but it still is a top challenge for many marketers. In dearth of documented buyer personas or incorrect buyer personas in place, creating useful and engaging content can be daunting.

These correct personas (entailing the demographics, goals, behavior patterns, motivations, challenges, etc.) and buyer’s journey both are critical tools to ensure that the content produced is relevant to them in their roles and considering the stage of the buying process they’re in. This indeed is a great reason to invest time, resources and effort into researching, identifying patterns and creating compelling personal stories.

One important thing to note here is that if not enough time in invested into creating the buyer persons, this can wreak havoc in the form of incorrect or incomplete profile stories (that are not based on actual data but incorrect assumptions) that can lead to a faulty content strategy.

As per The Changing Face of B2B Marketing study published by Google and Millward Brown Digital in 2015, almost half of all B2B researchers are millennials. Hence, it becomes imperative to give them the content to this young brigade of online researchers where and only when they need it. And, not at the convenience of the marketers. This can only happen when the content developers and marketers have a thorough understanding of their buyer personas.

After spending a decade in the marketing industry and interacting with fellow marketers working at other companies, I find that not many organizations are enthusiastic or are investing in this extremely important exercise. Even after having a full-fledged content team, many companies are still juggling to produce relevant content for their target audience.

Only product-centric collaterals and approach to help sales teams in selling the product at the first few customer interactions are the recipes to disaster. Such marketing is bound to get doomed. Isn’t it?

  •  No/Incorrect Buyer personas = Marketing & Sales Teams Disharmony

One of the most common myths is that creating and consuming buyer personas holds significance only for the marketing team. Only creating buyer persona won’t suffice for the marketing success. Using it across the complete funnel strategy and getting the sales team onboard for using it as soon as you have created can work wonders for your business goals.

Many businesses still face the age old challenge of their marketing and sales teams not getting along, and hence fail to drive meaningful results. In such a scenario, something that can truly drive a successful relationship between the two departments is the buyer persona. The marketing team should be completely aware to whom they’re marketing and the sales department must know to whom they’re selling their products. Only when the two teams are on the same page on this crucial component of the business strategy, can the two teams collaborate meaningfully to drive results that matter.

However, not many organizations take this methodical approach and dive straight into executing the marketing campaigns (focusing on spray and pray approach – email blasts, buying databases, etc.) to support sales teams in their crazy, deals-closing spree. Hence we often get to hear about the huge volumes of irrelevant leads getting passed on to the sales teams by the marketing team. As a result, very often, friction surfaces between the two teams, and there begins the blame game, which is not good for the business as a whole.

  •  No/Incorrect Buyer personas = Poor Targeting

Poor targeting is one of the marketing’s deadly sins.

Segmenting your database is critical to sending tailored messages to your contacts. Though it seems like a tough exercise that involves taking into account too many variables, this is one area that buyer personas can easily simplify. These detailed profile stories offer cues as to what, when and how the messages should be sent to the database. Each persona has a different behavior pattern, the language they use and varied goals and challenges. Hence, each communication should be dealt differently.

If you don’t have that buyer personas developed or have an incorrect one, you fall prey to sending everyone the same thing. Thousands of marketers today do these repeated email blasts, hoping the message would resonate with at least some of them and that they would buy the product. And, the amount of time, resources and effort you put into this interruptive marketing can be counterproductive with your contacts getting annoyed and taking a decision never to engage with your brand.

It’s time to bring it all together with the Buyer Personas

Let’s aspire to be good marketers – marketers who understand their customers and needs. Let’s avoid the hard-sell approach and be helpful to them. Let’s take all the time it needs to build great personas and regularly update as these can change our marketing game – redefine our content and email strategy, the educational topics we can write on and solve their challenges through our remarkable content. If done right, it’s a win-win for everyone within the organization.

The Differences Between Outbound Marketing and Inbound Marketing: In a Nutshell

ib

My job is to do inbound marketing.

With so much hullabaloo around changing consumer behavior (powered by rapid technology adoption) and the advent of smart ways using which they’re becoming quite adept at blocking interruptive marketing messages, it becomes important to understand how has the marketing evolved and the basic differences between traditional (outbound) marketing and inbound marketing.

The Internet is inundated with articles on this subject. However, most of them say the same story in different words. Having gained a lot of knowledge through different MOOCs and blogs from marketing giants like Seth Godin, HubSpot, Brian Solis, I have successfully added another value to my character – the zeal to empower fellow marketers or anyone who is just starting out as a marketer. After
all, inbound is all about helping people online.

I’ve attempted to highlight the key differences between Outbound Marketing and Inbound Marketing in a ready reckoner format.

S.No. Outbound Marketing Inbound Marketing
1 Interruption Marketing Permission-based Marketing
2 Marketer-centric Customer-centric
3 Involves Push Mechanism Involves Pull Mechanism
4 Focus on building Hype Focus on Helping and Empowering prospects/customers
5 Focus on finding customers Focus on getting found
6 One-way communication (Monologue) Two-way communication (Dialogue)
7 Outbound marketers have to “buy, beg or bug their way in” Inbound marketers “earn their way in”
8 Offers little or no value Delivers value
9 More expensive Less expensive
10 Less effective More effective
11 Paid search ads Organic search rankings
12            Examples :            Examples :
(a) Telemarketing Blogs
(b) Direct Emails Ebooks/Whitepapers
( c ) Blast to Paid/Rented Email lists Personalized emails to Opt-in Email lists
(d) Tradeshows SEO
( e) Cold calling Social Media
(f) TV ads / Radio ads Webinars/Podcasts
(g) Print advertising Online Videos

Do you have suggestions to add to this table? Please put them in the comments section here.

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.

inbound

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.

How?

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

inbound-versus-outbound_strategy_quote

Options for marketers:

Does Content Live in a Silo? Hell NO!

The whole marketing industry is going crazy behind Content Marketing these days. But what actually content marketing is? Does it make sense to say that it’s a strategy to use content for great marketing results. But that’s not what it is.content

Content does NOT live in silo. It only fetches results for businesses when used in combination with other marketing channels and innovative marketing practices. It’s one of the planets of the vast inbound marketing solar system. Confused? Read further.

Content can fall flat on its face (or be ineffective)  if NOT used with:

SEO – Many marketers think content marketing is all about creating more content and the easiest way to do that is through regular blogging. However even great content can deliver no value, if it goes unnoticed or if your target audiences are not able to find it. SEO is a surefire way to ensure that your remarkable content gets found and read by the right set of people i.e., your target audiences. Marketers should ensure that the helpful content that they create must be optimized well for keywords used by their target audiences to locate certain products or services on search engines. That’s how content attracts organic traffic.

Social Media – With social media euphoria gripping humans across all age groups, geographies and business sectors, almost every brand wants to tap this huge real estate and engage with their target audiences across varied social media channels. For enhanced content reach and visibility, it needs to be distributed imperatively across relevant social media sites (only those where your target market hangs out frequently). Popular social media channels such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest, etc. are the online avenues, where readers love to share the infotaining content that you create. Hence as a smart marketer, make it easy for them to do so by integrating social media sharing buttons in each content piece that you push out on the Web. Not only does it increase your content’s reach or effectiveness, but can also help you engage with your target audiences easily and help them address their challenges with your useful content. If your content succeeds in solving their challenges/pain points, no wonder these readers can also become your brand evangelists. So keep feeding them with awesome content on their most favorite online destinations!

Email marketing – Some businesses see email marketing as the most powerful tool in their marketing arsenal to connect with their contact database. Email can really help your content get out there and grab many more eyeballs. Without email marketing, your content’s reach is constrained drastically and can make all your content creation efforts go waste.

content-marketing-statsIt’s damn simple. Content forms the beating heart of your inbound marketing strategy but ONLY when it’s used along with other channels (a few of them listed above!). Don’t sandbox your content. Give it wings and let it soar high and wide to cover the complete horizon of your target audiences.

 

 

 

Master Business Blogging Fundamentals for Improved Marketing Score

2013 is here. It’s time to think BIG. My flag of New Year resolution is furling high. This year, I aim to be the best inbound marketing talent around. Well, that’s not going to happen in a nick of time. It’s a tough cookie. But I will try.

business-blogging

Business Blogging: Let us master the basics together

I’ve put all my marketing ducks together in a row. And, I start with one of the most critical pieces of inbound marketing methodology- Business Blogging. Tapping and prodding the concept from all corners possible, I hereby present to you some quick tips to master business blogging fundamentals. So if you’re angling for a role of a business blogger at your organization, read on.

Business blog is a long-term marketing asset. Relevant and engaging content is one of the core components of a business blog. Corporate blogging directly correlates to better marketing results. Trust me on this one!

A good business blog is one that is rich in content, well optimized and well promoted. If you happen to get the remarkable content for your blog written frequently  half of the battle is already won. Now comes forth the seemingly challenging task of blog optimization.

Blog Optimization. How do you do it? Simple! To provide your business blog with extended reach beyond your normal readership, follow these simple steps.

Social Media Sharing: Add social media sharing buttons either on the top, bottom or left of your blog post thereby making it more shareable.

Visually enticing images: Add captivating image, graphics or infographics to your blog. Remembers, visual content charms readers more than sheer text chunks.

Well-optimized Blog titles: Master the art of crafting stellar, optimized blog titles (8-9 words or fewer). The post title should be simple, direct, intriguing or even newsworthy. Support your content with numbers, cues and facts.

Formatting: Format your blog adequately to make it more readable and engaging.

Contextual CTAs: Treat your blog like a real estate platform for the placement of contextual call-to-action tabs, in-text or sidebars.

Actionable: Write a succinct blog post with actionable steps and clear takeaways.

Entertainment: Make your story interesting and entertaining by adding metaphors to it.

If you have proved yourself a rock star in blog optimization, you’ll find blog promotion way easier. What do you need to do?

Hunt for guest bloggers: Find guest bloggers, influencers or experts in your network and explain them the benefits of co-marketing partnership as they would get exposure beyond their base subscriber count and also inbound links.

Social Media Sharing: Make your blog more shareable by getting some prominent social media sharing buttons added to your story.

Website Banners: Treat your blog like a platform to place some top-performing marketing offers as banners. You can also place your blog link as banner on different pages of the website such as “Home” page or “About Us” page.

Cut a video: You can also make an entertaining video covering your whole objective behind your blog and some funny moments while putting it up there.
Business Events: Don’t miss out on an opportunity to turn the heads of your audiences to your blog, if you are out there on a podium for a corporate presentation at any business event. This can surprisingly drive in a huge amount of traffic to your blog.

Email Signatures: Go for digital branding and include your blog link to your email signature in all external and internal communications. Encourage all your colleagues also to do the same.

Blog Directories: Submit your blog to top 50 blog directories on the Web and sit back to enjoy all inbound links flowing in and fetching authority for your blog.

corporate-blogging-marketing-success

Happy Blogging in 2013!!!

So…these were a few business blogging fundamentals from me. That’s all from me as of now. Have some more business blogging techniques in tool chest? I’d love to hear them all. After all, I’ve to live up to my New Year’s resolution.

Happy Blogging!!!!