Software-as-a-service (SaaS) businesses started in the early 2000s, and its rapid growth through the last decade has done nothing but substantiate this robust business model.
While SaaS and cloud-computing businesses offer a wealth of benefits, it can be a tough sell to companies used to the traditional software purchase model. Luckily, inbound marketing offers a solution to this common SaaS problem. In this article, we'll dive into how your SaaS business can integrate inbound marketing campaigns to reach new customers and help them understand the value of your company's service.
First, Understand Your Customer's Journey
To creative effective inbound marketing materials, you need to understand your customer's journey. The customer journey is the path your customers take when they encounter a problem, look for solutions, discover your company and eventually become a customer. Task your marketing team with constructing personas so that you understand the pain points of your buyers, and what motivates them to seek solutions.
There are three stages to this journey:
- Awareness: How do potential customers learn that your SaaS business is an option, and what can you do to increase your visibility?
- Consideration: Once your business is on a potential client’s radar, how can your business set itself apart?
- Decision: What resources does your company use to convert a lead?
Understand who your clients are and figure out what you need to do to convince them that you are the solution to their problems. This is where your inbound marketing strategy comes into play.
Awareness: Create Great Content to Attract Web Traffic
If your customers don’t know you exist, they can’t be customers. In the awareness stage, content is used to grow traffic to your website, making prospects aware of your service. Popular content for this stage includes blog posts and educational materials.
Put yourself in the shoes of your buyers and imagine what pain points they face, and what they might be searching for online. For example, writing a troubleshooting article on how to debug your computer after downloading a type of malware, when you offer virus-scanning software. Some of your visitors will convert into leads, leading them to the consideration stage.
Consideration: Segment Your Audiences and Automate Your Marketing
Once you've cultivated leads, the next task is to nurture these leads through email drip campaigns. These campaigns promote regular contact with a customer and establish your company as an authority.
Let’s say a lead filled out a form to download a case study. That’s a great indication that they're aware of the service your SaaS business provides and that their company has a problem.
Now is the time for your marketing team to make sure they’re provided with a stream of helpful, high quality information. This content should primarily focus on their needs and problems. Example content at this stage may include:
- blog posts
Continue to focus on education and problem solving to develop authority and trust, while leaving a trail of breadcrumbs that ends with a call-to-action (CTA) that encourages them to continue interacting with your company.
Decision: Product Demos and Trials
When it’s time to convert leads for SaaS enterprises, there is a gold standard for sealing the deal: demos and trials.
Remember that the individual tasked with making decisions about your product is probably involved in the technology side of that company. Few things will compel them to to bring a product to their bosses like a positive experience where they actually using your tool and seeing the value first-hand.
While demos are, by their nature, self-serve experiences, that doesn’t mean that your marketing team needs to leave everything up to chance. Pair the demonstration with some onboarding material or the presence of a part of the support team. This adds even more value to an already positive experience. It's also an opportunity to encourage exploration of advanced functionality that may be hard to uncover without an experienced user present.
Product trials are an enormous indicator of interest on the part of a lead. Make sure they're easy to find, and then send marketing materials to seal the deal.
Retention: Use Social Media to Build Rapport
One of the pitfalls of inbound marketing is to assume it is a “set it and forget it” deal. While it’s certainly a game of preparation and patience, that doesn’t mean it’s a static experience.
An active presence on social media adds another digital channel to your inbound efforts, and more importantly, keeps you engaged with your audience. Beyond sharing useful content, respond to customers and refer them to solutions. Quickly addressing questions, comments and feedback demonstrates impressive accountability and accessibility: you’re telling users that the conversation doesn’t end when they choose your software.
Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn are great places to start, but don’t forget to check out places like CNet Forums, Reddit or TechDiscussion.
Use Inbound Marketing to Position Your SaaS Business
Emphasize these inbound marketing best practices in your SaaS business and you will reap the rewards. Use testing, optimization and key performance indicators to further hone your efforts. Your SaaS business will see generate more qualified leads and more easily convert customers.