The Quick Guide to an Effective SaaS Inbound Marketing Machine
May 17, 2016
By Aaron Riddle
You’ve been pushing your idea out to the masses for months (maybe even years in some cases) of your X idea that’s going to solve Y, Z and maybe a few other things for your customers. Your product is developed and now available to the masses, things are going well from a growth perspective (albeit not at the level you are expecting). The search is on to answer the following question: “How come people aren’t as excited about our product as we are?”
You are a modern-day SaaS organization living with modern technology and doing your marketing the wrong way.
Inbound Marketing, first coined in 2005, has grown from being a “nice to have” to an “absolute need” for all types of organizations, especially within the SaaS landscape. With inbound marketing tools, your marketing efforts can be precisely tooled to your target audience, help them progress down your sales funnel and turn them into brand advocates for your organization over time.
While all SaaS organizations are at different stages of inception and market shares within their industries, here’s a quick guide to reference to getting your Inbound Marketing efforts started on the right path:
1. Setting Goals
All of your marketing efforts (especially with inbound) begin with defining your marketing goals to match your business objectives. A great place to start when developing these types of goals is to use SMART goals.
When getting started with SMART goals, keep the acronym in mind at all times:
Specific - Be as specific as possible with numbers and due dates
Measurable - Is this something that is measurable in your organization currently?
Attainable - Is this doable, but also helps to move the dial?
Realistic - Is this realistic with other initiatives going on?
Time-Bound - Has a due date in place
With a firm foundation and a grasp of your business goals, your marketing efforts can begin to help facilitate these goals with ease over time.
However, before any of these goals can be sprung on your teams, you need to begin looking at the current alignment of your marketing and sales staff and identify potential gaps in your current structure.
Aligning Marketing and Sales
Take a second and look at your marketing and sales staff as it sits today. Are they in alignment with one another on their current initiatives? Are they also aligned to the same business goals?
Nothing is more crucial for your inbound marketing efforts than to a sales team on board that gets it and sees the results coming from your staff.
Here are some quick ways to better sales and marketing alignment:
- Have a formal service level agreement (SLA) in place among your staff. Ensure that both teams are held accountable and everyone is on the same page when it comes to marketing and sales goals. 59% percent of marketing teams surveyed admitted that they do not have an SLA.
- Define rules and criteria for leads defined as Marketing Qualified (MQL) and Sales Qualified (SQL). 40% percent of those same organizations had yet to define these rules and criteria.
Your goals are now in place and are better aligned amongst your entire organization, now it’s time to look at your content and aligning it to your buyers journey.
Content is the key to any effective inbound marketing strategy and it’s no wonder that a lot of organizations are putting out a vast amount of content these days, making it much more difficult to stand out from the rest.
Brainstorm some content ideas with your team that help to align to your personas during each stage of the buying cycle (Awareness, Consideration, Intent). By starting there and putting your content ideas into each bucket, you can fill in gaps within your content on your website. Better yet, you can recycle some of your previous/high-performing content and repurpose it to get you started on filling gaps quickly in your buyer’s journey.
HubSpot has a great list of content creation tools and resources to help get you started.
Now that your goals and content are all aligned, now you need to better understand who is going to be executing on these objectives. In order to allocate these resources effectively, you need to understand your current budget and if you have the headcount to do so internally, or outsource some of the work off to an agency or freelancers.
One of the most strenuous parts of a marketer’s job is allocating budget to their projects. Trying to explain “We need more budget” to marketing (especially with unexpected growth numbers) can be a tough hill to climb, especially in budget-constrained startups and small businesses.
To bringing everyone full circle onto the new initiatives, it’s safe to say that you’ll need a budget that’s ready to be allocated to your new inbound marketing efforts.
In-House or Outsourced Resources?
Within most SaaS startups, there’s a marketing person up to their heels in additional tasks that keep them from their original objective. When looking at Is it something that can be done in-house by internal staff or do you outsource some of these efforts to agencies or freelancers?
HubSpot’s State of Inbound 2015 states that agency partners and freelancers are on the rise for content creation, helping to keep their staff focused on thought leadership and other areas of focus.
Resources are now in place, and now it’s time to develop some tactics to execute on all of your initiatives.
With your content ideas all lined up and gaps have been discovered in your buyer’s journey for certain personas, you can add tactical measures to your marketing content offers. social media, lead nurturing, conversion paths and much more is needed within your tactics to sustain and push forth a great offer to your audience.
Looking to get your inbound marketing tactics up to speed? There’s a wide range of tools out there to help expedite your efforts.
Your tactics are being executed and the results are starting to take shape. What now are your next steps? What should you be looking at and what should you improve on?
Take a look at a couple of important metrics to measure effective growth:
- Marketing Qualified Leads (MQLs): While Marketing Qualified Leads may not be as important to your upper management as Sales Qualified Leads (SQLs), this still is a valuable metric for your marketing team to know what’s working and what’s not within your certain channels and offers.
- Visit to Lead Conversion Rate (VTL): With inbound marketing, you want to know that visitors are converting to the premium content you are developing. Take a look at this metric on the landing pages of your offers and look to increase them if they are below 20%.
- Opportunities Generated from Marketing: At the end of the day, your team is going to look at how marketing is adding to the sales funnel of your organization. By having the source information to each lead and nurturing them up to opportunity status, you have a wealth of information to further add additional content and strategy to increase your sales opportunities.
What other tips or steps would you add to this guide? I would love to hear your thoughts and comments below!
About the author
Aaron Riddle was formerly a Digital Project Manager at SmartBug Media. He has more than 9 years of marketing and project management experience helping organizations succeed in their digital marketing goals and objectives ranging from not for profits to large technology-based groups and businesses. Read more articles by Aaron Riddle.