Inbound marketing has become one of the go-to ways for savvy businesses to attract customers. If you’re not familiar, the process involves using content that you give away free on the internet to win over and attract prospects and convert them into customers.
But if you’re interested in B2B SaaS inbound marketing (that stands for business to business and software as a service), you must understand the nuances of this industry to use this strategy effectively. Even comparing the SaaS industry to the B2B SaaS industry reveals differences that can affect performance if you aren’t aware of them.
For example, the B2C SaaS industry has a quick sales cycle. A prospect can go from not knowing who you are to buying your product within a week or less. But in the B2B SaaS industry, a single purchase can be a high-ticket investment that involves many stakeholders in the decision-making process. The sale can take months or even a year to close.
Why inbound marketing?
So why should you consider inbound marketing for your B2B SaaS business? Well, I have the most “unconvincing” stats to show you.
Hubspot’s Inbound Marketing Report found that companies primarily using inbound marketing had a 61% lower cost per lead than companies primarily using outbound marketing. That’s a huge difference when you consider the fact that cost per lead in this industry can range from a couple hundred to thousands of dollars.
Another advantage of inbound marketing is the seamless, online transition that it facilitates between marketing and sales. Rather than having to bang on doors or pick up the phone, your marketing department can set up prospects for sales more strategically. By the time that your sales reps start talking to the prospect, they already know who you are and what you can offer, and are eager to buy your product.
Without further ado, here are some tips for mastering B2B SaaS inbound marketing from an agency that has helped dozens of B2B SaaS companies skyrocket their revenue.
1. Create a SEO content plan
According to Google, a search influences 39% of purchases online. So likely, you’ll benefit from having a credible presence on search engine results pages.
Many businesses get overly excited about becoming a trusted authority with inbound marketing and begin publishing content on various topics left and right. But it’s important to take a more focused, thoughtful approach if you want to get customers. Becoming a trusted expert in your industry will happen naturally once you create the right high-quality content and market it properly.
To accomplish this goal efficiently, you must have a solid plan to produce quality content that sends strong signals to search engines using best practices.
Unfortunately, most B2B SaaS companies end up blogging blindly—sending out tons of blog posts on different topics that have little or no relevance to what will bring business or the blog post don’t follow a theme. For example, the social media company Buffer made this mistake by attracting hundreds of thousands of visitors through articles on personal development and productivity. While they got a lot of traffic, it wasn’t the right search intent to convert into customers.
Ultimately, writing about wildly different topics every week confuses Google because it can’t tell what your website is about. Readers struggle to follow along, and you have a much harder time repurposing your content into larger assets (like e-books).
When you’re starting, it’s a good idea to have monthly themes and to write about high-intent topics. These are subjects that your red-hot prospects are researching before they buy. An example is a topic on product comparisons. When a user is comparing different products, they’re already close to buying.
You want to start with high-intent topics because these are the foundational pages off of which you’ll build your B2B SaaS content, and they’ll likely also be your highest converting pages. You have a much higher chance of getting someone to convert on these pages compared to an article that talks about a topic high up on the marketing funnel where the prospect isn’t even sure he or she wants to buy yet.
High-intent terms often have low search volume, but in addition to having a higher conversion rate than high-search-volume phrases, these terms give you less competition when you’re trying to rank on search results.
Web articles are your bread and butter for generating high-quality traffic that converts. Anyone can get started because all you really need is some text to share with the world. Many of our top B2B SaaS clients have obtained the bulk of their return on investment from search engine optimization. However, Bing is still a player that shouldn’t be ignored since many corporations use Microsoft products, which come with Bing as the default search engine. But Google still takes the cake for most search traffic, even in B2B.
Proper content planning also involves good customer research. When you know your ideal customer—including their hopes, fears, and dreams—you’ll be much better equipped to attract the people you want. That’s because you’ll be able to identify the exact questions and anxieties that they have. Go out and talk to real customers—you may find that your true ideal customer is far from the one that you pictured in your mind.
One last note: A content plan ensures that all members of your team are conveying the same messages and working toward a similar end goal. Otherwise, your messages can get distorted in a game of telephone. If your CEO communicates the customer profile down to a manager, who then shares that message with a marketing coordinator, bits of accuracy will get lost as the information trickles down. Instead, put together a detailed document that’s accessible to all relevant employees.
If you need help, here’s a free B2B SaaS marketing plan template.
2. Don’t over-sell
Unlike some other B2B SaaS marketing strategies, inbound marketing is all about nudging a prospect toward a sale with value instead of pestering them relentlessly.
Don’t come across as the desperate marketer who just wants another sale. Instead, give your prospects what they’re looking for, and allow them to discover you and your products or services naturally. You can make clear signs to point them in the right direction, but you shouldn’t push your agenda too forcibly.
There’s a clear tendency for businesses starting out in thought leadership to announce to the world who they are and why they’re so awesome. But you’ll notice that those who are successful in thought leadership let their content do the talking. They focus more on creating valuable content. And by doing so, they naturally become awesome and gain followers.
By helping people out for free with various pieces of content that they find on different social media channels, blogs, and other platforms, you position yourself as the go-to expert that prospects trust.
3. Promote your content
Once you publish content, a small portion of your potential audience will read it since they follow you. That leaves a large number of people who would benefit from your content but aren’t aware of it. Content promotion separates the champions from the average. Many people in the B2B industry don’t promote their content to new audiences and only post their content to their existing following because it’s easy. But don’t take the easy way out—if you do, you’ll miss out on a lot of reach.
If you’re willing to invest more time in reaching out through Twitter, LinkedIn, and email to influencers, website owners, partners, and even competitors in your industry, you can tap into plenty of other people’s traffic. You’ll get your post in front of lots of eyeballs that could turn into customers.
Part of a successful outreach strategy lies in having incredible content. The more valuable your content is to the world, the more likely it is that people are going to say yes when they’re asked to share it. Your content has to be great to make an impact on the web. Make sure your headline is eye-catching and the information you provide is valuable rather than clickbait.
While we’re on the topic of promoting content, you need to also have an objective sense for how good your content really is. Most people assume that the content they produce is better than it is, without consulting their audience.
Additionally, keep in mind that the “content” isn’t just blog posts—you can have infographics, podcast episodes, video tutorials, vlogs, and lots of other creative media. Even LinkedIn status updates can be considered content—I’ve seen many influencers drive lots of engagement and build a following using long-form, thousand-character LinkedIn posts.
For B2B, posting content on Facebook or LinkedIn works better than posting it on YouTube, Pinterest, and Instagram most of the time.
4. A little creativity goes a long way
Often in B2B, any external-facing content comes across as dry and promotional. The industry generally isn’t known to be very flashy or imaginative. On occasion, this behavior comes down to a matter of legality and formality expectations. But most of the time, it stems from the false belief that these industries can’t be exciting or entertaining because they involve business.
We don’t need to look far in the B2C industry to find examples of companies that use their imagination to make a boring, otherwise simple product into something fun for customers.
Take Dollar Shave Club. On paper, it’s a cheap shaving delivery service. But Dollar Shave Club used its innovative, entertaining commercials to get people excited about the brand, and that’s what has allowed it to become one of the most well-known shaving companies in pop culture.
Or take the insurance company we all know as Geico. Let’s be real: Insurance is a pretty boring industry. You’re simply paying money to protect yourself from paying a lot more money in the future. Geico’s ads have breathed life and humor into an otherwise mundane business. Thanks to Geico’s mascot, the gecko, and its slogan—save 15% in 15 minutes or less—people are able to associate the brand with a memorable personality and offer rather than boring, old insurance.
If all of this creativity sounds like too much to live up to, know that the bar is currently low in the B2B industry for producing creative copy. You’ll often see bland calls to action like “Sign up for our email newsletter” or “Get a quote.”
I get it—it’s not always easy. For one, you need approval from higher-ups to publish something more exciting, which takes time and sometimes doesn’t go through. Plus, some of the topics you’re discussing may be fairly involved or complex. Explaining a data visualization IT solution isn’t something that the general public can wrap their heads around easily, for example. And it’s not easy to make your content exciting.
But it is possible. With some simple tweaks, like throwing in a couple catchy offers or having a mascot, you’ll get ahead of your competition.
5. Leverage your connections
In the B2B world, your relationships matter, and finding one good person could net thousands of dollars in revenue. So unlike in B2C, where you have to broadcast an ad to thousands of people, you have the opportunity to reach out with personalized messages one person at a time.
Everyone knows someone who knows someone in the same industry, or at least a related one. And if you don’t know anyone, you can reach out cold.
Connecting with the right person could also mean getting the chance to reach thousands of their followers. While the B2C industry has taken this tactic by storm, the B2B industry isn’t as familiar with influencer marketing. So there’s a huge opportunity to leverage people in the market with years of experience, thought leadership, and expertise.
WebMechanix has successfully convinced experts and leaders to share their advice and promote it to their audience by starting a podcast. To get someone to say yes, you often need to offer value in exchange. In our case, we offered exposure to our podcast listeners in exchange for people to come on as guests. You can create epic content that’s the first of its kind in your industry, attracting lots of prospects and influencers as guests or customers.
6. Choose the right social media platforms and communities
There’s a common belief that you should steer clear of all types of social media platforms if you’re in the B2B industry because none of them work. Frankly, that’s not always true. It certainly is true sometimes. Certain networks have proven to work well for some B2B SaaS industries and poorly for others. It’s something you’ll need to evaluate for your particular situation. Some social media platforms really knock it out of the park for B2B, so why would you want to miss out on those opportunities?
For example, Facebook has billions of active users. Chances are that the decision-makers you’re after have an account on there and maybe even use it actively. Facebook’s robust advertising targeting methods and audience size blow any other social media platforms out of the water. You could very well be doing yourself a disservice by ignoring Facebook.
But wait, isn’t Facebook advertising not considered B2B SaaS inbound marketing? Advertising can be used as a way of stoking the fire of inbound brand awareness. When you see that a certain blog article is taking off or receiving positive reactions, you can pour gasoline on the fire by promoting that post on Facebook so that it generates more awareness and reach for the top of your marketing funnel.
Note that there are plenty of other niche communities and forums online specific to the B2B SaaS industry that are watering holes for prospects. Some of these places occasionally offer higher quality B2B SaaS lead generation than what you’ll find through common marketing channels.
Spiceworks, G2 Crowd, Facebook Groups, and even Quora are potentially good tech communities that you may want to blend into in order to win over prospects. However, as I mentioned before, you need to avoid presenting yourself as the promotional money-grabbing marketer. Many of these communities are highly skeptical of newcomers and react negatively to most forms of promotion.
Instead, try to answer questions, contribute to discussions, and keep a 5-to-1 or 10-to-1 ratio of giving value versus mentioning what you have to offer. If you can subtly mention it in a response, you’ll be far more likely to be received positively. It’s essential to measure the amount of engagement and discussion going on in a community because what’s assumed to be a good place for your business isn’t always so. You’d expect LinkedIn Groups to have a thriving community of professionals talking about different business-themed topics, but that isn’t the case. Maybe it has something to do with how their groups are set up for the general amount of spamming going on, but most LinkedIn groups are like a ghost town, while professional Facebook groups are blooming with discussion.
Directories should not be underestimated. Just like with B2C products and services, like restaurants or electronics, your customers are hitting the internet to find out what previous customers have to say about your solution. If anything, directories are more important for B2B software because there are fewer people leaving reviews, so each review has more impact on the reader and the average rating. There are only a handful of directories, like Capterra, that dominate the online marketplace. So get familiar, make sure you’re incentivizing happy customers to leave reviews, and set up your profile on these websites so that your online reputation looks attractive.
7. Get your content offers right
Many B2B SaaS content offers aren’t making prospects salivate. A free product trial is a great step in the right direction. What else can you do?
More importantly, what if a prospect isn’t ready to try out the product? If they’re higher up in the marketing funnel, you’re leaving money on the table by not capturing their lead information with a content offer that they may be willing to jump on. That way, you can nurture them over time with email marketing and win them over.
Part of getting your content offers right is doing a little competitive analysis. You may find that most, if not all, of your competitors are doing the same thing. If you find that all of your competitors are already offering a free consultation, then you’ve struck gold—because now you know what may work and how to stand out. On the other hand, you may discover that a competitor is doing something innovative that’s working well for them. If that’s the case, you can use your newfound insight as inspiration.
One offer I highly recommend is some type of wizard quiz. A wizard offers a tailored, personalized series of questions to identify your specific issue with a problem and delivers a custom answer. Users are more likely to convert with one, even if it means filling out more fields than they typically would because of the interactive nature and the promise of a response tailored to their unique situation. We’ve used these successfully for various clients to increase conversion rates and obtain more leads.
You can create a wizard for a prospect in any stage of the marketing funnel. If someone is high-to-mid funnel, you can create a wizard for a question around a research-based problem. Let’s say you have software for associations. Your wizard can answer the question of how associations can better organize their files for productivity based on their company size and industry.
Researching and understanding the entire B2B SaaS customer journey that your ideal customer follows really helps at this point. Once you map out each stage, you can have custom content offers for each one, which will increase the chances that prospects will convert.
8. Get your SEO right
I mentioned that articles and SEO are the bread and butter of your inbound marketing strategy. But how do you master your SEO? This topic alone would require its own blog post (or several), so here are some suggested further resources.
I will say that the basics of SEO can get you very far and don’t take long to explain or understand. First, use a keyword research tool like Uber Suggest, Keywords Everywhere, or SEMrush to find out what people are searching for in your industry. Keyword research is a skill that takes considerable practice to improve. Your best bet is to assemble a list of all of the key phrases that someone could possibly search for on whatever topics you think a prospect would be interested in.
Next, you choose a keyword you can competitively rank for based on your domain authority compared to the competition that already ranks for that keyword. Some tools offer competition metrics that you can easily use to determine the difficulty of ranking for a particular keyword.
Finally, you have to write an epic, genuinely useful article while sprinkling those keywords throughout the piece. Don’t overstuff the article with keywords—your writing won’t seem natural, and Google may very well penalize your ranking.
9. Do remarketing
remarketing is a strategy that can amplify your inbound efforts. It involves setting up ads to show to people who have already visited your site. If you’ve already done the hard work by getting people to visit your site and getting them to learn who you are, why not take advantage of that? These users are much warmer to your brand than cold traffic. If you remarket to them, you’ll pay a fraction of the price that you would to convert cold traffic.
Remarketing is one of the most affordable, highest return on investment you can make in the B2B SaaS industry. If you don’t know how to set up remarketing, we have a free remarketing guide to get you started.
10. Optimize mobile
While B2B has more desktop users than B2C, there’s still a fairly large and growing number of people in B2B who mostly browse the web through mobile phones. For example, Google found that 79% of people took a relevant action on their phone before making a purchase.
With that in mind, it’s very important to optimize the mobile versions of your site so that they’re lightning-fast and working properly. Test all of your pages on different kinds of devices. It’s easy to miss something simple, such as a thank you page not loading properly or a click-to-call phone number not actually calling when it’s clicked. These are simple opportunities to improve your conversion rate.
We love to use BrowserStack, a tool that lets you see how your page loads on any device or browser.
11. Create evergreen content
Evergreen content is timeless. Rather than covering topics that can become obsolete in a year or less, evergreen topics are plants that continue to bear fruit for decades. Instead of wasting a similar amount of time on creating content that may only be relevant for a few weeks, you can create a piece of content that continues to attract and convert customers for much longer.
Having worked in the world of inbound marketing for a long time, I have learned that nothing is truly evergreen. Even topics that should be universal and timeless get outdated as video production or web design methods improve. Users, search engines, and social media platforms can demote a piece of content, even if the actual message is timeless, if they perceive the design, message, or data to be obsolete. That said, evergreen content requires much less updating than newsworthy content and can serve as a resource well into the future.
12. Use customer referrals
In the B2B SaaS world, the lifetime value of a customer can be very high, so it can be very profitable to obtain just one more customer and keep them for another year. A great product obviously makes this easy. But great marketing can fan the fire. Do you have an affiliate or referral program set up? It only counts as a program if you have specific requirements on what that person must do and what they get back in return for referring a customer to you.
A solid referral program can increase the amount of customers you obtain noticeably. People are more likely to trust a friend’s recommendation over an advertisement.
13. Nurture and educate with email marketing
Since B2B SaaS solutions are often complicated, it takes time to educate prospects on your solution or a topic in your field. You can do that with web articles or social media, but you can also use email marketing.
Email marketing is an affordable, reliable channel to get in front of your prospects since everyone checks their inbox. With search engine optimization, your visitors may just stumble across your article from Google and then leave. But with email marketing, they have opted in to receive recurring messages from you, so you can continue marketing to them.
Offer them a valuable content download, like an e-book or case study, in exchange for their email. By using a marketing automation platform like HubSpot that can enrich data, you can obtain lots of information from prospects’ email alone, such as their industry and company size.
Using this information, you can send tailored email follow-ups that educate them on a topic that they’re interested in learning more about. While some topics in B2B SaaS can take an hour or longer to explain, you can bridge the knowledge gap and reduce friction by trickling digestible content into their inbox. Business professionals pay more attention to what’s in their inbox compared to what new information releases on a website, so you have a higher chance of keeping their attention.
14. Grow your awareness with Google Ads
If content is king, then Google Ads is queen.
Is Google advertising considered inbound? Technically, yes—because with Google ads, you’re essentially making sure you show up when people are doing their own research for problems they want solved.
Many of our successful clients get a bulk of their leads from this B2B SaaS marketing channel. But it’s not easy. Optimizing Google Ads requires an understanding of Google ad best practices.
15. Use this secret tool
HARO, otherwise known as Help A Reporter Out, is an effective but underutilized way to create epic content in little time to attract customers. It’s a free service that connects reporters to sources.
Ever wanted to be seen on Forbes? How about your favorite B2B SaaS news website? HARO makes this super easy by sending out a daily email digest of people looking for sources to cover specific stories. The emails even categorize requests by industry and category. I suggest starting by looking under the tech or business categories. We’ve found great success here at WebMechanix in obtaining backlinks and getting our name out there using this tactic.
You can also be on the receiving side of HARO—you can sign up for free to be a publisher and request responses. It’s a fantastic way to source high-quality, credible content quickly.
Don’t just focus on recognizable websites with lots of traffic. Be sure to still answer questions from lesser known sites that have more of the relevant prospects that you’re after. Always choose quality over quantity.
There’s clearly a lot that you can do to improve your B2B SaaS inbound marketing efforts.
With inbound marketing, you can attract new people to your website naturally, get them to trust you, and convert them into customers more effectively than with outbound marketing. Moreover, you often have more time to spend on each prospect with inbound marketing than you do with outbound marketing since you’re showing up on multiple platforms. You can use that time to position yourself as a trusted thought leader and nurture prospects through email marketing and various other types of content.
Don’t underestimate the power of search engine traffic, directories, or social media for inbound. In a relatively affordable way, you can reach prospects with multiple touch points and deliver tremendous value before they’re on a sales call. That makes the challenge of selling a prospect ten times easier than before because they already know your brand and have benefited from your free content. And keep in mind that while we see some small traction with new forms of marketing, like Facebook Ads or podcasting, the bulk of what moves the needle is still going to be the bread and butter: Google Ads and SEO.
A good inbound marketing process comes down to attracting, nurturing, closing, and delighting customers. The step of delighting flows back to the first step of attracting since your best form of marketing is obtaining referrals. Your inbound marketing process should look like a flywheel, where every stage that you optimize feeds into propelling the flywheel to spin faster and attract more customers than before.
What was your favorite tip from this article?
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