If you are just starting off with using inbound marketing for your SaaS business, take a few minutes, make yourself comfortable, grab some popcorn and read this post.
As you might know (since you run a SaaS business), there are a few key differences for SaaS companies compared to other types of businesses: growth, customer LTV and churn rate play the most important roles for a SaaS company’s profitability and prosperity.
For these reasons, it’s critical to get your planning and inbound marketing strategy onboarding in order right off the bat. The clearer you set initial goals and milestones, the smoother your journey will be. If the growth of your SaaS business is a marathon, proper planning and goal-setting are the road that you will need to run through. Naturally, the better you know the road (with all the valleys, hills, rivers, crooked turns, shortcuts, etc.), the faster you run and get to your destination, see what I mean?
1. Define your marketing goals clearly
Let me be absolutely clear on the value of having clear goals: any form of marketing (including inbound) works best if you focus on a few aspects at once (ideally, you want to focus on 1-3 aspects). This means that your marketing goals will need to be specific, achievable, measurable, timely, and most importantly, focused on a single outcome.
Let me give you an example.
You know DropBox? The ultimate cloud sharing and file hosting tool that was available before iCloud and Google Drive were released? Yeah, the one you most probably use for your company every day.
Well, DropBox wanted rapid, wild, ultra-fast business growth. However, that’s too broad and vague of a goal to focus on. There are a ton of strategies that you can utilize, in order to grow your business, so how exactly should you do it?
DropBox found the solution in utilizing their own tool via referral marketing to attract more clients and grow ridiculously fast. The basic idea was this simple message:
“Refer DropBox to a friend and get 500 MB storage for free”
This referral incentive exploded wildly all around the web, since people were in dire need of a solution to host their files somewhere, and access them from anywhere in the world. The company tweaked, modified and used this message EVERYWHERE: social media, marketing campaigns, emails, text messages and whatever other communication channel you can literally think of.
To break down this example in terms of defining marketing goals, here is what DropBox did:
- They set a broad goal – growth
- They figured out what they need to do to achieve their goal
- They found a precise way to make their product work for their audience
- They incentivized the product in a way that would be beneficial to both themselves and users
- They focused on the same messaging and strategy and consistently (up to this day, more than a decade later) shared it via every marketing and communication channel available.
The results? DropBox was worth around $4 billion in 2013, and $10 billion in 2014. I don’t know about you, but I’d describe these results as “pretty damn mind-blowing”.
2. The importance of sales and marketing alignment
After you set your marketing goals, the next step is to align the sales and marketing teams and get them to work together to be able to achieve the goals you set.
Depending on your existing funnel metrics (number of monthly visitors, leads, MQLs, SQLs, etc.) and the goals set, you should be able to come up with some sort of a figure that will satisfy your most important business criteria: consistent, month over month growth.
After you have the figure in mind, gather your sales and marketing teams together and align their activities with the corresponding figure, and work backwards from your goal to determine reasonable and crucial monthly quotas that need to be met consistently, to achieve those goals.
Let’s turn this into an example (for the sake of simplicity, we will disregard SQLs, MQLs and churn rate):
Suppose you have 2000 monthly website visitors, an average visitor-to-lead conversion rate of 10%, and a lead-to-customer conversion rate of 5%. Your marketing goals and strategy dictate that you need to have at least 10% month-over-month growth in order to achieve the desired outcome.
So, out of the 2000 people who visit your website, 200 become leads and 10 become customers. If you need at least 10% MoM growth, this means that your marketing team will need to bring enough website visitors and leads, in order for your sales team to close 11 customers next month. In the case of our example, you will need 200 more visitors and 20 more leads to get 1 additional customer.
Now, transfer this example to your company (taking into account important metrics like SQLs, MQLs and churn rate) and calculate your figures to set even narrower, focused goals for your sales and marketing teams to focus on.
3. Find the best inbound marketing partner to help you out
The above examples are easy when you have an in-house marketing team. However, if you don’t and need to outsource marketing activities, it gets a bit trickier. Since it's crucial to plan everything correctly right from the start, you will need to pick a marketing partner carefully. Here is what you should be interested in when looking for a reasonable, trustworthy and productive marketing agency:
Pick an agency that digs SaaS
Let’s be real. Marketing isn’t THAT hard if you are looking for average results. Anybody with a bit of experience and moderate skills can set up internet ads, come up with a social media calendar, write a few articles and eBooks, send a couple of emails and generally, achieve some sort of results. However, if you are looking for above average, or great results, it’s a different story. Make sure that your partner agency clearly understands how the SaaS business model works and knows the most important success metrics that need to be focused on.
Make sure they have corresponding experience
Theory is good, but putting a theory into successful practice is usually challenging. Sometimes, things don’t go according to plan, or new opportunities/risks jump into play and need to be dealt with simultaneously. Take a look at the potential marketing agency’s experience before making your final decision. Ideally, the experience should incorporate working with SaaS companies.
Talented salespeople know their job well, sometimes too well. They can talk it out and convince you to work with their agency by utilizing the brand image and client portfolio, without ever actually showing you real results of previous work.
When talking to a sales rep (or any chief officer for that matter), make sure to ask for some real numbers and data that will validate the agency in your eyes as a potential partner.
If you like what you hear and see when talking to a potential marketing partner, also review their team. For example, if you are looking for help with graphics inquire into how many designers they have. If they have one or two, either the work that is submitted will be substandard quality, or if it is high-calibre design it will take a lengthy turnaround. Another example: if you are going to need increased content for your marketing, make sure that their creative writers are not only great with their language, but are hip to your industry, know the tech buzzwords to use, etc.
Corporate culture differences
We saved this one for last because it is the most frequently overlooked when hunting for a marketing agency. Every company has their own corporate culture; their own ways of “doing things” when it comes to communication, scheduling, collaboration, fixing mistakes, and so on.
Finding a partner agency that is aligned with your company’s corporate culture will ensure that they deliver the results that you expect, and in a fashion that is familiar to you. It will also save your company resources. If both your SaaS company and marketing partner are on the same page, you will likely use their services in the future, saving time and money by not needing to go on the hunt for marketing services again.
4. Actively participate in the marketing initiatives of your chosen partner agency
One thing our experience here at Incredo has taught us, is that most companies think that once they hire a marketing agency, their role is done. That’s probably the most common and, at the same time, most severe mistake you can make as the CEO of your SaaS business.
The relationship with your marketing partner agency isn’t called a partnership for nothing. When you outsource marketing activities to a professional agency, it’s essential to have strong communication and collaboration between the two of you, in order to achieve anything of value in the long run.
Another common mistake that businesses make is that they are reluctant to share any data and expect the marketing agency to do all the work from scratch, in a very short amount of time. While a professional marketing agency will have no problem gathering data themselves, it will take way too much time when they should be focused on writing/graphic design, time you don’t need to spend in vain. Moreover, it makes zero sense not to share your existing data with your partner agency (assuming you have it before partnering with them).
If you commit to working with an outsourced partner agency, be ready to share your marketing and sales data, so that they can plan and execute every aspect of your inbound marketing strategy with maximum precision. Knowledge is power, and time is money!
SaaS business growth is heavily dependent on whether you can get everything set correctly from the start in terms of marketing goals and achievements. Now that you know the four essential steps you need to undertake, it’s time to assemble your team together and kick some marketing ass!