SaaS products that continue the traditional outbound sales and marketing strategies are bound to fail. Not a very promising line to start with. None the less, this is the bitter pill to swallow. While some SaaS products may start with a mix of outbound and inbound sales and marketing, they need to transition into inbound very quickly. The only reason to adopt an outbound sales & marketing model is to capture the first set of customers or the critical mass of user base.
In the course of this article, I will be using sales and marketing together a lot of times. The reason behind this is that with the inbound process, the line separating sales and marketing is fast diminishing.
In other words, marketing team’s job does not end with providing unqualified leads to sales. In most cases, the marketing and sales are the same teams that carry targets of leads and conversion.
It may be useful for you to monitor the trends revolving around Inbound marketing, and its related fields.
But why would SaaS products fail with a Traditional Outbound process?
The traditional outbound marketing involves generating leads from cold calls, event participation, buying contact lists to name a few. Cold calls did not work 10 years back. Cold calls do not work now. Buying contact lists and sending them cold email blasts result in depressing outcomes.
Most of the times you lose your faith in such channels of marketing without realizing that you are doing it wrong.
Cold calls do not work now. Buying contact lists and sending them cold email blasts result in depressing outcomes. Most of the times you lose your faith in such channels of marketing without realizing that you are doing it wrong.
1 – A Traditional Outbound process still works for Enterprise Software where you close deals worth more than $50K at least. So your money spent on generating leads and closing them by meeting prospects face to face, plus 3 to 6 months of the sales cycle, gives you appropriate returns. However, you need to be deep pocketed to sustain months of no revenue periods, to sustain a large sales force, to sustain heavy investments in marketing, and to sustain the costs of customer acquisition.
2 – Naturally, if you are using traditional outbound sales and marketing to sell a SaaS software for $100 a month, your cost of customer acquisition will be 10 times more than your revenue. Plus, you will be facing a new challenge of preventing customer churn, which will cost you more money and effort. With the lapse of time, your organization will be struggling to decide on where to spend their efforts and money. The option will be to chose between new customer acquisition or old customer retention. You will also be reading statements that “acquiring a new customer costs 5 times more than selling to an existing customer”.
3 – Another new challenge that you will soon start facing would be of customization requests. Your customers will be paying peanuts but will continue to expect you to invest thousands into customizing your SaaS product for their whims and fancies. You will oblige a few, but soon realize that there is no end to such demands.
‘Hey, here’s a gourd!’ is not so different as, ‘Hey, here’s enterprise sales software!’ The language changes, but the humans are the same. — Chris Penn, VP Marketing Technology at SHIFT Communications
Is this convincing enough for you to look deeper into the Inbound Sales and Marketing Strategies?
The Inbound Sales and Marketing Commandments
I am the Future thy Fortune, which have brought thee out of the land of Enterprise, out of the house of deceit.
Every software product will have to move to SaaS and Subscription business sooner or later. SaaS is ethical since it offers ready to use software, which is user-friendly and more robust & scalable than traditional enterprise software. It is also pocket-friendly for the customers and gives immediate Return on Investment.
No assumptions before me, only Data.
Unlike traditional enterprise corporations, you cannot throw around an arbitrarily assumed data and work towards fulfilling it. Gone are the days when someone would blankly claim and the rest would believe. “Big Data will grow at the rate of 224% YoY from 2024”, or “Mobile adoption is the key to success. By 2032, 94% of the population will have Smart Phones.” Let the Romanian Gypsies do such future predictions. You need to know exact past & current data, and you can extrapolate for maximum another year or two. You never know – by 2032 there may not be any Smart Phone at all. Such tall claims!
No meeting prospects face to face.
The moment you start meeting prospective client their expectations start increasing and your processes changes to outbound. Although it is good to meet Influencers whom you can onboard as your first set of customers, you need to keep your positioning straight. Take suggestions from them, since they are masters in their field, and use it to improve your software. Post a critical mass, do not engage customers physically. Connect with them digitally in a more holistic manner.
Not have just discount coupons to make a sale.
What is your pitch? What do you talk about to interact with your prospective customers? Do you only have your list of features to talk about? Or you consider yourself upgraded to pitching solutions? How do you convert your leads? At the end of the day, does it just boil down to discounting?
These are some important questions you need to ask yourself. If you say “Yes” to even 4 of these questions, you need to seriously think about the next commandment.
Remember the Creativity day.
Content is King. Do not bore your customers with White Papers and Case Studies alone. Build creativity in your team who can develop content as a storytelling. Tell stories that can help your customers learn something new or do something more, not necessarily with your software. If you keep telling stories about your software alone, it becomes a hard sell and boring too. Your product may be solving one of your customer’s problem. However, you need content to solve your customer’s other problems too. You need content to cater to your customer’s interests as well.
I wanted to write “Thou shall covet your competitor” . SaaS business needs to monitor their competitors very closely. Understand your competitor’s unique features that the market talks about, their most circulated content, their organic and PPC keywords, their positioning strategy, pricing, product UI/UX, and more. In fact, you should use your competitor’s product for your business to understand their strengths and weaknesses.
Thou shall not Spam.
Stop buying contact lists. Stop sending unsolicited cold emails with boring content. It will not give you results. Learn the numerous ways with which you can create a warm contact list. Nurture these contacts with useful and quality content that helps them or entertains them. They will respect your brand, build trust, and convert. Do not attempt to hard sell.
Thou shall not work with limited leads and shall learn Growth Hacking.
Needless to say that you will now need tons of leads and email subscribers. Learn growth hacking techniques to generate huge quantities of qualified leads. The industry standard conversion rate could be around 10% to 12%. So you are the better judge on the quantum of leads required by your product. Learn some quick Growth Hacking Techniques.
Thou shall not depend on manual processes.
With so many leads, and with so many customers (By God’s Grace ), you need to adopt good automation for every business process. Even the smallest manual process will ultimately prove to be a hindrance to your servicing these leads and customers.
Thou shall learn the new SaaS metrics.
SaaS offers a completely different set of metrics to measure your business health and growth. Start tracking them, understand these metrics, and take appropriate and necessary actions to improve these metrics.
Now that you realize automation is so critical to your SaaS business, let me not just leave you stranded with a footnote. Let’s understand the different areas of Inbound or Digital marketing and the tools associated with them.
Inbound Sales and Marketing Automation
The success of inbound sales and marketing is largely dependent on digital marketing approach and the processes that you have automated. You need to be very particular about the tools that you have adopted.
This is your holy grail. Maintain a clean blog and write creative content. Content alone will build your brand and reputation which will result in automatic customer conversion. Learn what not to do and how you can create good content for your blog. Content Marketing for SaaS.
You should have a different landing page for different problems you are solving for your customer. Learn how to build optimized landing pages that convert.
Already spoken of, but will not be a problem if I reiterate. Your content is not just your software help manual. So don’t keep distributing content which says “How to configure your software”. If you take 3 days to write a good content, at least spend another 3 days to distribute and market that content.
Social media is a powerful channel to distribute your content. Learn how to leverage the power of Twitter, Facebook, Google+, Linkedin and other social media channels. Twitter and Linkedin can be used for Influencer Marketing as well.
This will be your most powerful and dependable arsenal. Build email automation to welcome new subscribers, to create drip campaigns, and for event-triggered communications. Send weekly newsletters to properly segmented email contacts. Learn more about email marketing and reach its depth.
Search Engine Optimisation is so important for a SaaS business. You should aim at getting at least 40% of your website traffic from search engine alone. Easier said than done. SEO takes time and constant investment. But you need to focus on this and keep trying to reach your traffic target. Learn more about SEO for new websites.
Whenever information & action is forwarded on from one department to another, you better build automated workflows or at least automated notifications. Measure everything in a SaaS business. “What gets measured, gets managed.”
Call to Actions
Be creative and create a list of catchy CTAs. You will be using these CTAs everywhere. Use them in your landing pages, in your emails, in your in-app communications, in your CPC ads. Come out of the boring “Sign up Now”, “Try Now” & “Pay Now” call to actions. Put your creativity to good use and find attractive pickup lines.
Even if you have loads of Search engine optimized keywords, you may still need to pick up passive customers and leads. Use PPC to find a niche and low competition keywords. Pick up unsuspecting leads and customers with PPC optimization. Learn more about how to take full advantage of PPC.
If you have understood the difference between traditional enterprise businesses and SaaS, you will also realize that traditional CRM tools will not fit your needs. Be very careful of what the market claims. Your CRM is the core automation that can automatically manage your leads and customers. It is the essential tool that can also build the perfect SaaS culture within your organization. Learn more on how to evaluate CRM for SaaS.
Lead forms are critical for your business to generate warm and qualified leads. Since lead generation is so important in this business, you need to learn the good and bad habits of using lead forms. Learn how to get more email subscribers.
Branding will make or break your SaaS product. If you are branding your business all by yourself, you need to learn a few tricks and the science of branding. Else it is favorable to hire a branding agency to do the work for you.
SaaS and Subscription business are quite different from the traditional business. It takes less capital to start a SaaS business, but it takes a lot of effort and skill to build one successfully. Hope this post articulates and details what is needed for Inbound Sales and Marketing. I am open to your comments and suggestions.