In a previous post, we discussed how an inbound approach enables your SaaS company to connect with the right people,in the right way, at the right time. Inbound allows you to demonstrate your knowledge and expertise, answer your target audience's questions and, ultimately, help you to win their business (and keep it).
Research shows that growth through the acquisition of new business is vital to a software company; unlike many other industries, if a software company grows at only 20%, it has 92% chance of ceasing to exist within a few years according to McKinsey.
And it’s not only in reaching new customers where inbound can help; supporting and upselling to existing customers is important too. The average SaaS business generates 16% of its new Annual Contract Value (ACV) from upselling to existing customers. You could even argue that keeping existing customers happy is more cost effective too, and just to hammer it home, a five percent increase in customer retention can increase a company’s profitability by 75 percent.
Research suggests SaaS companies often lack an overall strategic view of the sales funnel – many create educational content for the top of the funnel and produce heavily sales led content for the bottom of the funnel but often neglect the all-important middle of the funnel. There must be a journey through the funnel that is planned, managed and delivered with real strategy and appropriate content – precisely where an inbound marketing agency shines.
Why your SaaS company needs an Inbound Agency
Just as your software is delivered digitally – inbound leads can be delivered digitally. You are only implementing inbound once – an agency has successfully implemented inbound many times – it’s what they do. They have a proven process, know the right questions to ask and the correct priorities.
Inbound Strategy Blueprint
Developing an inbound strategy is not easy and by no means a quick fix. Without the support of an inbound marketing agency, who have successfully implemented inbound many times, it may feel like a leap in the dark.
The starting point is an assessment of your current marketing – including an in-depth review of your website. No company operates in a vacuum, so a thorough examination of your competitors is next – what is their content like? How is their website performing? How effective is their social media programme?
Next, your inbound agency will establish your brand messaging, define your Buyer Personas and suggest a direction for content creation. All this would feed into your strategy blueprint for implementing inbound.
Building the Foundations
While your web-based systems may be highly optimised for the delivery of software services, the performance of the marketing aspects of your website may fall short of the demands of the inbound world. SEO performance, mobile optimisation, security and speed are all factors that need testing to ensure competitiveness. Depending on the results an inbound agency may suggest you: keep the existing site, redesign your site on a platform such as Hubspot, or take a growth driven design approach.
Getting inbound marketing right involves the meshing of a whole range of components, including technology, content, design, and campaign strategy, but then it will deliver traffic leads and sales.
Content is the fuel of an effective inbound marketing machine, and ensuring the content has context is vital. An inbound agency can use all the learning from the strategy phase to produce content which is suitably targeted towards the needs, fears and aspirations of your buyer personas. Using their specialist skills, judgement, experience and talent the content offers they can produce - newsletters, eBooks, white papers, video – will be relevant to the stage of the buyer's journey the prospect is at and optimised around well-chosen keywords to draw traffic to your site.
The Inbound Technology Stack
Producing content is not the end of the story though, inbound marketing for SaaS requires powerful calls to action (CTAs), optimised landing pages and thank you pages. By getting this right, you will have a winning conversion rate optimisation (CRO) formula that will bring in the leads.
With inbound software such as HubSpot, along with SEMRush, Buzzsumo and Passle, your inbound marketing agency can monitor your social, set up your blog and email templates, conduct keyword research and create workflows which react to your prospects behaviour on their way through the sales funnel.
Once the visitor has converted to a lead on your site a platform such as HubSpot enables your inbound agency to nurture the prospect through a series of tailored emails until they are ready to buy.
For SaaS companies, whose products and services can often be complex and highly technical, a blog is an important part of any inbound plan.
And a blog is a great place to talk about the driving passions of your company and about what sets you apart from your competitors. It’s a great way to establish authority and to write about the issues facing your prospects’ industries. Use it to address the elephants in the room and dig deep into subjects that are causing your customers’ pain, fears and aspirations. Optimising these blogs and ensuring they are rich in the right keywords means that they can benefit your SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) – essential if you want to be found.
The next stage, once the strategy and foundation are complete, is to ensure continuous improvement and growth. This can be enabled using an Agile Scrum approach, originally developed for the software industry, but also now used by Equinet and many other inbound agencies. This involves working towards weekly, monthly and quarterly targets to meet your company’s annual goals and objectives. Under the Agile system, your agency will deliver a set amount of points, not hours, to produce the work needed to meet goals and timelines. In this way, you never end up paying for an agency's unexpected inefficiencies – no matter how many hours, or how many resources the agency has used to deliver a piece of work, the points remain the same.
Empowering Your Sales Team
With inbound not only the quality of leads is higher, but also the quantity of leads too. But because an inbound lead is well informed and arrives later in the buying cycle, your sales team will need to adapt to deal with them.
Hubspot and similar systems contain a good deal of information about those prospects – their persona type, the lifecycle stage they are at, which of your web pages they have viewed, and what content they have downloaded from your website. Many of these contacts will have been nurtured through the workflows described above.
Because traditional sales techniques are proving considerably less effective and buyer behaviour has changed, sales reps can struggle to close the same level of business that they’ve been able to in the past.
Implementing sales enablement can redress the balance and empower sales with the tools and techniques needed to deal with this new reality. A review of your sales process can be conducted by your inbound agency to align it with your overall goals and objectives. They can help create the collateral – such as case studies or eBooks – that support your sales team.
Sales & Marketing Data
One of the advantages of inbound sales and marketing is the detailed data of your buyer’s behaviour it provides.
Using analytic tools, an inbound agency can measure website traffic, user intent, click-through rates, conversion rates and bounce rates. When combined with sales data such as activity per sales rep, the number of demos delivered v orders received; new customers won or lost; they can generate powerful, meaningful reports on a monthly, quarterly, annual basis.
This information can help inform business decisions by highlighting potential service improvements to your development team, inspire innovations for new services and help your SaaS company keep up with fast paced market changes.
Your SaaS company could implement inbound without an agency, but going it alone is a risk. Systems like HubSpot are just a tool, it is what you do with them that makes the difference.