The Ultimate Guide To SaaS Inbound Marketing
SaaS marketing has always set itself apart from traditional marketing methods. It doesn’t rely on flowery words or fancy ads. Nor does it involve intrusive outreach methods.
Sure, traditional methods might sometimes still help a bit.
But the world of SaaS is a technical one. SaaS products and principles are complex in nature.
Because of this complexity, customers need to learn and understand a lot of concepts and how SaaS products work. Sometimes, they even need to try the products before buying.
Due to this, SaaS businesses have grown to rely on inbound marketing. In fact, it reportedly produces 54% more leads than traditional marketing methods. And yet, it costs 62% less.
Now, who wouldn’t want a more cost-effective marketing strategy?
Inbound Marketing VS Outbound Marketing
But what is inbound marketing? How does it differ from traditional marketing methods?
First, let’s see how outbound marketing works in contrast to inbound marketing.
Outbound marketing is a traditional marketing method. It involves you, as the marketer, proactively making the first move in reaching out to your potential customer.
You initiate the conversation through activities like cold calling, cold emails, and paid continuous advertising.
Generally, it’s not that effective in SaaS because of its intrusive nature. Sometimes, it’s even called “interruption marketing.”
If you’re selling to SaaS users, especially B2B, you’re reaching out to businessmen, professionals, and people who know what they are looking for in a SaaS product.
These people rely on hard facts in choosing what SaaS solutions to buy. Flowery words probably won’t work on them. In fact, being bombarded with ads and cold outreach might even annoy them.
And if they do get annoyed, outbound marketing would only hurt your brand, not build it.
Now let’s talk about inbound marketing. In contrast to outbound marketing’s proactive outreach methods, inbound marketing is all about attracting your prospects.
Rather than reaching out to your potential customers, you create marketing materials that would draw them towards you.
It’s more about giving than receiving. You provide valuable resources which SaaS prospective users can benefit from. In turn, they become aware of your brand. And if they like your content, they are one step closer to becoming your customers.
SaaS Inbound Marketing Channels
Just like any other marketing strategy, inbound marketing can involve a few different channels. In SaaS, these three are the most commonly used inbound marketing channels:
- Blog site
- Social media
- Email marketing
Let’s talk about them one by one.
You can’t really talk about inbound marketing without mentioning content marketing.
And as of this writing, you can’t talk about content marketing without talking about blogs. Although a lot of other content marketing trends are getting more and more popular, blog posts are still the most common form of SaaS content marketing today.
A few benefits of running a blog site include the following:
It educates your customers: We mentioned earlier that SaaS customers need to learn and understand concepts related to SaaS. And the very heart of content marketing is to educate your potential customers.
It is scalable and accessible: Your SaaS blog lets you create content at scale because you can produce blog posts consistently and frequently. What’s more, this type of content is accessible to anyone at any time. No log-ins necessary.
It is flexible: Just because it’s a blog site doesn’t mean it only has to have content in text form. You can also mix and match it with other content types like photos, infographics, and videos.
It builds your brand and topical authority: Your content pieces will build your brand awareness If (and only if) your content is reliable and relevant. It will establish you as an expert in your chosen niche.
Consequently, your prospective customers will know that your blog site is the go-to when they need to learn more. They will start trusting your brand and eventually your product.
Before you can attract potential customers, you first need to put your brand on their radar. You need to go where they are.
Nowadays, social media is where the action usually happens.
Generally, you can reach B2C audiences on more common platforms like Facebook and Instagram. While B2B audiences are more likely on LinkedIn.
The beauty of social media marketing is that it can work hand in hand with your SaaS content marketing efforts. Whatever blog or video you produce, you can also share it on social media platforms.
Still, social media marketing isn’t just about posting and sharing. It’s more about consistently interacting with your potential customers.
Reacting and replying to their comments goes a long way in generating and nurturing leads through this marketing channel.
Inbound Email Marketing
Time and time again, email marketing has been one of the most reliable SaaS marketing channels that ever existed.
It allows you to communicate and stay in touch with your SaaS prospects and existing customers alike.
But let me make this clear: I’m not talking about cold emailing. That’s an outbound marketing campaign. With inbound email marketing, you’re sending those emails to people who actually want to receive them.
But how do you know which people want to receive emails from you?
First, you build an email list. You gather people who want to hear from you through email.
You can do that by adding a sign-up form on your blogs or on your website. You may also share the link to the landing page on your social media posts.
Of course, you can sweeten the deal and motivate them by offering free stuff in exchange for signing up. You may give them free e-books and other digital products.
Now, there have been some trends that have made email marketing extra effective at selling SaaS products. These include the following:
Personalized emails: Users will more likely open your emails and click links if they have some personal touch to them. If the email is talking about their interests or even mentioning their names, it would more likely get their attention.
So do you need to write your emails and personalize them one by one?
Of course not. Advanced email marketing solutions like Mailchimp and AWeber can help you personalize and automate these emails.
Drip email campaigns: SaaS businesses can also benefit from drip email campaigns. Through this, you can send a series of pre-written emails to your SaaS leads and customers. These emails will be sent at strategic times.
For example, a new lead just signed up for your email list. They would automatically receive an email welcoming them. Then after a few days, they would get another email about current trends in your niche.
The earliest emails can be subtle first. They can just be the latest news in your industry or one of your newly published blogs.
Automatically, you are in contact with that lead and your relationship with them gets nurtured. Then the succeeding emails get progressively themed about selling your product. At best, this constant communication and email progression would get them more and more interested in your SaaS solution until they buy it.
That’s basically what a drip campaign looks like.
Through it, you don’t just generate leads. It also goes a long way in nurturing your leads and eventually closing the deal with them.
SaaS Inbound Marketing Strategies
The marketing channels we just talked about can be great avenues for you to reach your target audience. But you also need to face the fact that competition can get pretty intense too.
Those channels are where your prospective customers are. Naturally, your competitors would flock to them too.
They are also producing a lot of blogs. They are also trying to stay relevant on social media. They are also filling up their prospects’ inboxes.
So how do you get ahead of your competitors?
Here are some things that you need to do:
- Identify your ideal customer
- Understand your buyer’s journey
- Create high-quality content
- Optimize your pages for search engine visibility
- Track the proper marketing KPIs
Let’s go over each of them in detail.
Strategy #1: Identify Your Ideal Customer
For you to create a marketing campaign that would really get your potential customer’s attention, you need to know who they are first.
And to really get granular on targeting your marketing campaigns, this can take two important steps: market segmentation and buyer persona development.
Market segmentation: When you eat a brownie, you don’t just eat the whole thing that comes out of the oven. You first need to cut it into smaller, bite-sized pieces.
Now imagine your target market and count how many people belong to that group. You can’t even put a number on it, can you?
That’s why you need to break them down into groups that share a characteristic.
This is called market segmentation.
So how can you group your target market?
First, you need to clarify whether you’re targeting consumers or businesses.
If you’re targeting a B2C audience, you need to consider demographic factors that relate to consumers. That can include their location, age, gender, and occupation.
It may also include psychographic factors like interest, hobbies, and beliefs.
On the other hand, if you’re gunning for a B2B audience, you can segment them based on more business-related categories.
That includes industry, number of employees, revenue, and more.
Segmenting your target market can help you track each customer better. What’s more, personalizing your marketing campaign can be easier if you do it per segment.
Buyer Persona Development: Aside from identifying your ideal customer, you can also take it up a notch and go as specific as your target buyer persona.
Wait. There’s a difference between the ideal customer and target buyer persona?
Yes. This is especially true in a B2B market.
In a nutshell, your ideal customer is a description of the type of company that you want to sell your product to. While your target buyer persona is a representation of an individual employee or executive within a company.
You can have various buyer personas within a company. You could have one for the executive, for the supervisor, and the end-user.
Knowing which buyer persona you are targeting helps you craft a more effective marketing campaign.
A C-level executive has different motivations and priorities from an entry-level employee. So you would need different media types and messaging to reach them both.
If you have a specific target buyer persona and you know what makes them tick, you will know what kind of marketing materials and channels would best appeal to them.
Strategy #2: Understand Your Buyer’s Journey
You also need to understand the entire journey that your prospect takes in order for you to really hook them and get them interested in what you have to offer.
Just a side note. Don’t confuse the buyer’s journey with the sales funnel or marketing funnel. They both refer to a customer’s movement from being a prospect into a customer. But their perspectives are different.
A sales funnel takes the seller’s perspective. While the buyer’s journey has the customer’s.
Now that that’s out of the way, notice that we’re calling it a journey. There’s a sense of progression to it. And progression means change.
Their motivations and preferences in the early parts may not necessarily be the same in the later steps. So you need to understand where they are every step of the way.
Think of it as putting yourself in their shoes. You try to look at things from their perspective. What are they looking for at this stage? What are the problems that they need to solve?
If you want to craft a good SaaS inbound marketing campaign, it’s important to get granular on mapping out their buyer’s journey.
To do that, you need to know five key stages in the buyer’s journey. These include the awareness, consideration, decision, retention, and advocacy stages.
Awareness stage: The very first step in the SaaS buyer’s journey is recognizing their pain point. They are trying to learn more about the problem and find a solution for it. So, at this stage, don’t sell aggressively on the get-go. If you do, you might just scare them away.
Remember that they are just trying to look for reliable information. And your goal is to establish yourself as a source of that reliable information.
So the best marketing materials for customers in this stage are top-of-the-funnel content. That includes blog posts, social posts, and sometimes e-books.
Consideration Stage: At this point, the prospective customer recognizes the need for a SaaS solution to address their pain point. But they are not one hundred percent sure yet on what kind of SaaS solution they need.
For example, a customer may be having trouble organizing their contacts and communicating with them.
Now they’re trying to consider whether they should get a simple email management solution or a full-blown customer relationship management (CRM) software.
What you can do for customers at this step is to help them see if your SaaS solution is a good fit for their problems. Content like case studies, white papers, and FAQs would work best in this case.
Decision Stage: Even when your customers get convinced that they need the type of SaaS product that you provide, they might not pick you right away.
Most likely, they are considering multiple SaaS products, not just yours.
They might be trying to find out which one is the best fit for them. They may be looking for reviews from existing SaaS users. Or they may even be looking for straightforward comparisons between the different SaaS products they are choosing from.
This means that at this point, you need to level up your game and prove to them that your product is the best one.
Since they are looking for comparisons, you can provide blog posts that compare your product with your competitors.
Obviously, you need to feature your product as the best. But you also need to back up your claims with valid reasons.
You can even take it up a notch and give them first-hand experience in using your SaaS solution. Your product demos and free trials might just win them over.
Retention Stage: In SaaS, marketing is not just about getting new people to buy your product. It’s also about retaining them. You need to keep them subscribed to your product for as long as you can.
Now that they have purchased your SaaS product, how do you keep them using it?
Of course, customer retention is also largely influenced by your customer success and product development departments. But marketing doesn’t stop after the purchase.
You can provide them with the necessary content to help them use your SaaS product to its fullest potential.
Having a comprehensive knowledge base is the standard content type for this stage. But you can also go beyond that and provide blogs, podcasts, and webinars that can serve your customers.
What’s more, you can build a SaaS community where your existing users can get peer-to-peer support and advice. This would build brand loyalty that ensures customer retention.
Speaking of building loyalty…
Advocacy Stage: Finally, SaaS marketing doesn’t just end with customer retention. It also includes building loyalty and advocacy for your SaaS product among existing users.
Now that they have had a taste of what your SaaS solution can do, they will want to spread the word about it.
Fostering that kind of loyalty happens in your social platforms and SaaS communities. At this stage, you don’t just share content. You start conversations. You further build relationships.
Strategy #3: Create High-Quality Content
You may have noticed that content marketing is a recurring theme all throughout this blog post. That’s because it’s a crucial part of content marketing.
Remember that inbound marketing is about attracting potential customers. So you have to have top-notch quality blogs, graphics, podcasts, videos, or any other content type you may use.
To make sure that your content pieces are of high quality, see to it that they are relevant, reliable, and readable.
Relevant content: When you write blog posts or produce a video, you can’t just use the very first topic that pops into your head. You have to make sure that it is something that your target audience is interested in.
The data-driven way to do this is through keyword research. You can start with Google Ads’ Keyword Planner. With it, you can discover trending keywords and the necessary metrics that indicate their relevance.
Reliable content: If you want to be seen as an authority in SaaS, you need to show credibility. You need to make sure that you’re giving accurate facts and sound advice.
To do that, use reputable sources as your references. You can also perform multiple layers of fact-checking with other reliable content providers.
Readable content: Okay, this is exclusive to blog posts and other text-based content. But since they are the most commonly used types of content, let’s talk about them.
When you’re writing a blog, you also need to make it visually appealing. It would be a bummer if a potential customer left your blog page just because they were intimidated by huge chunks of text.
Instead, organize your written content. Break them down into bite-sized, digestible pieces. You can do that by using H2 and H3 subheadings, as well as bullet points.
Additionally, keep your paragraphs short. Reading a paragraph that’s more than five lines can really be quite taxing. So as long as the thought still makes sense, keep your paragraphs at most four lines long.
Strategy #4: Optimize Your Pages For Search Engine Visibility
Search engine optimization (SEO) is another powerful tool in SaaS inbound marketing. It deals with the way you optimize your blog pages so that they can rank high in search engine results pages (SERPs).
After all, you still need to be visible when your prospective customers start searching on Google. Even if you have the highest-quality content out there, if it’s not on the first few pages, only a handful of people are going to see it.
So make sure you have some SEO strategies in place. Some of these include adding keywords to your content, adding links, getting inbound links, and optimizing page loading times.
Adding keywords to your content: Remember earlier when we talked about keyword research? Make sure that those keywords can be found all throughout your article.
But don’t spam your blog posts with keywords either. Google will see it as a cheap attempt at ranking high in SERPs and will penalize you for it.
Having two or three strategically placed keywords should do the trick.
Adding links to your text: Another on-page SEO practice you can do is add hyperlinks to some of your text. These links can lead to another page either on your own website or another one.
Linking to other pages tells google that their content topics are related to each other. What’s more, having a lot of references shows that you indeed know what you are talking about. It adds to the credibility of your content.
Just make sure to link out to reliable websites. If your links lead to spammy ones, your SEO performance would take a hit.
Getting Inbound Links: Getting other websites to link out to you can also be a potent SEO practice. This is like a vote of confidence from them.
They recognize your brand and what you do, so they want their own readers to see it as well.
It also means that you’ve created content worth linking out to. If other websites value your SaaS blog posts, then you’re probably doing something right.
And of course, as a result, it shows Google that your content is reliable. Or at least reliable enough to have others sourcing information from you.
Optimizing website loading times: Google determines its rankings by having web crawlers go through the whole worldwide web and index the content in every website.
These web crawlers are also sometimes called “spider bots”, which sounds like something you would see in a futuristic Marvel movie.
Anyway, a huge part of SEO is helping these web crawlers index your content.
So how do you do that?
For starters, you can make sure that your website loads fast.
You can optimize loading speeds by compressing your images and other bulky files on our pages. You can also use diagnostic tools like PageSpeed Insights and GTMetrix to find out what’s slowing down your website.
Another way to help the web crawlers is to organize your site structure.
Generally, it’s easier to track your website’s page hierarchy when you have subfolders instead of subdomains. What’s more, subfolders usually result in URLs that are easier to read.
Strategy #5: Track The Proper Marketing KPIs
As SaaS marketers, we want to determine whether our SaaS inbound marketing campaigns are working or not.
To do that, we need to measure the correct SaaS marketing key performance indicators (KPIs).
Let’s talk about some of the key inbound marketing metrics you need to track:
Unique and recurring website visitors: SaaS marketers use this metric to determine their SaaS inbound marketing campaign’s efficacy.
High website traffic means that your SaaS inbound marketing efforts are working. People are actually coming to your website.
The beauty of it is that you can track both unique and recurring visitors using Google Analytics.
For each visitor, Google Analytics assigns a unique number. Then combined with the timestamp for their first visit, that becomes their user ID. Each of those user IDs is a unique visitor.
And if Google Analytics detects a user ID coming into your website more than once, it tags it as a recurring visitor.
Having a lot of these recurring website visitors may also indicate that your content is, at the very least, good enough to make them come back.
Open and click-through rates: These metrics are primarily used for your email marketing campaigns.
First, let’s talk about the open rate. It refers to the percentage of people who opened your email. If you have a high open rate, that could mean that you’re doing something right with your subject lines.
Click-through rate (CTR) is the percentage of opened emails whose recipients clicked on the link in it. To calculate it, you simply divide the number of clicks by the number of opened emails.
Impressions, engagements, and clicks: This may sound similar to the open rate and CTR. But these metrics are specifically for social media posts.
Impressions are the number of times that somebody saw your post.
Engagements refer to any activity you get as a response to your social media post. These include likes, comments, shares, and retweets.
If you include links on your social media posts, you can also track your click-through rate for them. But this time, you’re dividing the number of clicks by the number of impressions.
Final Thoughts About SaaS Inbound Marketing
Inbound marketing can be a powerful tool in growing a SaaS business.
It doesn’t rely on intrusive methods that can possibly put off your potential users.
But rather, it focuses on building your brand. It uses many different marketing channels and strategies to establish you as an authority in your niche.
And as a result, it attracts customers.
But inbound marketing is no walk in the park either. After all, you still have a sea of competitors who are also doing their best in building and executing their inbound marketing campaigns.
Still, you never know. With the right inbound marketing strategy, your SaaS company’s growth just might skyrocket.
For more SaaS marketing guides and other strategies, visit our SaaS marketing blog here.