SaaS Inbound Marketing Guide

SaaS marketing is complex and competitive. That’s why having the right marketing strategy is crucial. Just like the other marketing strategies such as customer marketing, e-mail marketing, and product marketing; inbound marketing is one of the strategies that you have to integrate into your marketing efforts.

In this article, I’ll define inbound marketing thoroughly and provide you with a step-by-step guide, so that you can start integrating the right strategies into your marketing plan today.

What is Inbound Marketing?

Inbound marketing is a marketing strategy that’s based on creating meaningful content to attract customers. This marketing technique’s main goal is to reach the customers who are looking for the features that your SaaS is providing. That’s why one of the main aspects of inbound marketing is brand awareness. Inbound marketing techniques ensure brand visibility. By being visible, businesses attract more customers to their products and services.

What is Inbound Marketing? Definition, Examples, Types and Strategies
Image from LanderApp

What is the difference between inbound and outbound marketing?

The main difference between inbound marketing and outbound marketing is that inbound marketing is targeted at and tailored for a specific audience.

This audience is made up of customers who are already searching for a service similar to yours. On the other hand, outbound marketing is targeted at all customers who come across your ads by chance. Here’s an example to illustrate this point:

A business is trying to sell its new stand mixer.

  • If this business has an article about this mixer published on a well-known cooking blog, it is called inbound marketing. Why? Because the people who reach the article will have either searched for a mixer, which would’ve returned the article as a search result, or they were a subscriber to the blog, and read the article as a follower, meaning that they’re interested in cooking. Either way, the article reaches a customer base that was already interested in this business’s service.
  • If this business puts out an ad to the TV, it is called outbound marketing. Why? Because the people who view these ads will be a large group who had expressed no interest for a mixer. Maybe there’ll be a certain number of people interested in cooking, and the business will be betting on those people for the success of its ad.

While this is a broad explanation of how these two marketing strategies are different, here are the details that really separate them from one another.

  1. Inbound marketing creates content that is interactive and aims to solve customers’ problems. Outbound marketing creates advertising content that aims to sell.
  2. Inbound marketing is more cost effective: inbound leads cost about 61% less than outbound ones.
  3. Inbound marketing is a measurable and improvable marketing strategy. It’s hard to measure outbound marketing’s effectiveness as the number of channels and techniques are limited.
  4. Inbound marketing is not intrusive: it appears to consumers who are interested in seeing said content. Outbound marketing forces itself onto consumers who weren’t looking for the service.

And most importantly, one of these strategies is better at generating leads: inbound marketing techniques generate three times as many leads as traditional outbound methods.

Outbound MarketingInbound Marketing
Creates advertisements that aim to sellCreates content that aims to solve customers’ problems
ExpensiveCost-effective
Harder to measureA more measurable strategy
Somewhat intrusive Not intrusive

Why is inbound marketing specifically important for SaaS companies

SaaS is about trust

The main difference between SaaS products and day-to-day products is that SaaS products are not tangible. Thus, buyers want to make sure that they’re paying an actual solution more than they would while considering, say, mixers. Trust is important as itself, but it’s also important for the competition.

The SaaS industry is growing by 18% each year, meaning that each day, your business is facing new competition. How are you going to establish your credibility and stand out amongst all the other SaaS companies that are offering similar products and services?

You have to show that you’re a trustable brand that’s knowledgeable in its field. If a consumer is used to reading your How-to posts about a problem they face and see your product as a potential solution, they’re likely to trust your product’s ability to solve their problems. By using inbound techniques such as consistently publishing content and making said content customized for your ideal customer profile, you’re showing consumers that you know what their problems are and that you know their solutions.

Product should solve problems

Outbound marketing is about showing off your product, but SaaS users want more than that. They want to know how the features that you show off are useful rather than just looking at your product. This is especially important since most SaaS products are subscription-based, meaning that you have to consistently generate demand for your product. Inbound marketing is great for this: you’re consistently answering your customer base’s questions with emails, social media, and blog posts, giving them reasons to stay with your brand and increasing customer retention.

Engaging with Users at Each Stage of the Funnel

Each one of your customers went through your SaaS marketing funnel. There are several stages in this funnel, from awareness to advocacy, and customers are looking for different things at each stage. When they’re at the awareness stage, they’re learning about your brand with one of your basic articles. At the consideration stage, they’re engaging with your webinars and promos.

At the decision stage, they start a free trial. The list goes on. It’s clear that each stage requires special attention, which is why inbound targeting is important.

Step-by-step SaaS Inbound Marketing Guide

Audit your current strategy to optimize it

Performing a marketing audit is useful for two reasons: first, if you’ve been struggling to increase your customer engagement or marketing reach, a marketing audit can assess the viability and productivity of your strategy. This will help you focus your improvements on the necessary areas. However, the second reason is more important for inbound marketing. If your business is new to this strategy, you’ll need to re-align your marketing efforts with this new goal in mind. To do this, a marketing audit is necessary. Here are the steps you should follow:

1. List your marketing assets

Before diving into analysis, you need to determine the marketing campaigns that you’ll optimize. These campaigns include everything, ranging from your blog and social media posts to email newsletters. Once you’ve gathered the campaigns, bring together the necessary data.

2. Determine your metrics and goals accordingly

Since inbound marketing is about brand visibility, SEO, customer engagement, and demand generation, there are various metrics that you should use to analyze your assets. These metrics include keyword ranking for blog posts, post engagement for social media, cost of customer acquisition for PPC ads, and so on. Once you know the baselines by which you’ll be measuring success, you should start gathering data and analyzing.

3. Gather data and perform analysis

Gather the data from your marketing campaigns and compare their performance to the goals you had determined earlier. A good analytics tool like HockeyStack can help you analyze the performance of your campaigns based on these inbound marketing goals.

An inbound marketing audit may also include an industry analysis to see how your business is performing compared to other leading brands. This is important since a big part of inbound marketing is about competition analysis. When you analyze the content that your competition is missing out on, or the keywords they’re ranking for, you have a better idea about the content you should be putting out.

Work on your Ideal Customer Profile

An ideal customer profile describes the customer types that are likely to buy from/engage with your brand. Inbound marketing is all about targeting the consumers who fit into this profile. But why is this effective?

  • Targeted advertising has a better payback because these consumers are already searching for, or are interested in, the solutions your product is offering. That is why businesses with strong ideal customer profiles have 68% higher account win rates than those that do not.
  • Not only do these consumers have lower CACs, they are also more easily retained and usually more loyal to your brand.
  • Some leads are simply not worth your sales teams time and money because of predetermined factors such as business size, revenue and industry. Knowing the leads that fit into your profile save you from wasting resources.

In order to target your marketing campaigns to the right consumers, you’ll first need to define this ideal profile. There are a few criteria to keep in mind while doing this:

  1. Demographics and Psychographics: job title, income, age, etc. are all included in demographics. Goals, pain points and interests are included in psychographics. Though these criteria are more appropriate for individual users’ profiles, they still come into play for businesses.
  2. Budgets: What should an ideal consumer’s income be in order to work with your brand? How much revenue should a business have to become a long term subscriber? These are all questions to keep in mind while creating your profiles.
  3. Behaviours: Purchasing history, product usage and loyalty are the criteria under behaviours. These also apply to both individuals and corporations.

Once you know the demographic, budget, and behavior of an ideal customer, you can direct your marketing campaigns to the right audience. It’s important to make these profiles as detailed as possible and to update them frequently because as your company grows and changes, your ideal customer does too. Once you have the profiles you need, make sure that your content and ads are solving their specific pain points and addressing their custom interests. Once you’ve done this, you can establish a trustworthy and knowledgeable stance in the industry while also creating brand awareness for quality leads.

Do content and keyword research based on the sales funnel

I’ve talked about the SaaS marketing funnel earlier in this article. As I’ve mentioned before, the customers at different stages have different needs. Based on this fact, you should predict that they’re searching for different terms and content at each stage as well.

relevant terms in buyers journey
Image from HubSpot’s Inbound Conference
  • Consumers at the awareness stage are looking for a basic solution to their problems. For instance, a SaaS brand at this stage may enter the following words into their search bar: “High Customer Churn Issue.” What they’re doing in this case is looking for a brand that may educate them on this problem. The brand that does this first will stick to the mind of this SaaS brand.
  • At the consideration stage, this SaaS brand has learned about possible solutions to the high customer churn issue. They know that they should be using a good analytics tool to survey users, but they don’t know which one. Here, they’re likely to search “SaaS Churn Survey Tool.
  • Once they’ve familiarized themselves with the tools that came up in their research, they’ll start to consider purchasing one. Here, their searches will look like “X Surveys versus Y Surveys” or “X Analytics Pros and Cons.”

Since the keywords at each stage are obvious, your content should target and use said words to come up in consumers’ searches. This is how inbound marketing ensures brand visibility. By publishing blog posts, webinars, and any other content that uses these words and using the right SEO tools, you can make use of the sales funnel in your inbound marketing strategy.

Publish quality content at a high velocity to build authority

Content marketing is a vital strategy for inbound marketing. With a good content marketing strategy, your business may secure its place on the first pages of search engines, and establish its name in the industry as a knowledgeable resource. However, having such authority isn’t as easy as it may sound. As countless businesses are following similar content marketing strategies, you have to keep up with the most important keywords, article titles, comparison posts, etc. to make sure that you’re not falling back.

You have to be publishing content consistently and at a high pace, but not any content. It should be of good quality since you don’t want consumers to just click and leave. So how can you have a fast and quality content strategy? I have a more detailed guide to content marketing, but the key points are to:

  1. Have an editorial timeline,
  2. Choose the right distrubution channels and an effective distribution strategy,
  3. Have solution-oriented content rather than product-oriented,
  4. Measure performance and optimize content accordingly.

By following these steps and sticking to your timeline, you’ll build authority within your sector by popping up at every search and keyword.

Optimize your content for conversions

You’ve stuck to your timeline, you’ve published content using the right keywords, you’ve targeted it at your ideal customer profile, and you have a pretty solid strategy. What now? Well, you may have still not reached your ultimate goal. While these steps will bring a lot of traffic to your content, they may not result in the conversions you had wanted.

To increase conversions, there are a few things you can do:

  • Use conversion monitoring: view users’ on-page clicks and interactions to understand how they’re engaging with your content. An easily integrated tool like HockeyStack can help you view sessions in no time.
  • Optimize CTAs: the CTAs shouldn’t be intrusive, but they shouldn’t be ignorable either. Use phrases such as subscribe, join, claim, and learn more to increase engagement, and analyze how your CTAs perform as well.
  • Competitor analysis: getting some inspiration from other businesses never harms anyone. See how they have structured their landing pages, what they’ve done to increase engagement, and which CTAs they have used.
  • Use Tools: AI chatbots and surveys are great tools to increase engagement. Making use of them could make the difference.

Don’t forget that these techniques can be used both for new and old content. You can always update your existing content to cultivate its benefits.

Measure Inbound Marketing’s Success

In order to understand which blog post or marketing channel brings the highest quality leads in terms of LTV or MRR, or to better understand which one brings the most engaged users, you can use HockeyStack.

HockeyStack is an end-to-end analytics tool for SaaS companies. With HockeyStack, you can track and analyze data from the product, sales, subscription revenue, and marketing in one tool and get access to hidden insights, such as the LTV of a piece of content, or the churn rate of each marketing channel along with users’ reasons for churn.

Revenue + Marketing Dashboard

Conclusion

In short, inbound marketing is a productive strategy for SaaS businesses because of its ability to generate qualified leads with low CACs. It’s about creating targeted marketing campaigns that provide visibility and awareness for your brand. To get started, you should first audit your current marketing strategy and align it with your inbound marketing goals. Then, you should define the profile that you’ll be reaching with your campaigns/content. Afterward, once you’ve done research on the keywords that you’ll use, you can start publishing content.

FAQ

Is content marketing and inbound marketing the same?

No. Inbound marketing is about creating meaningful, customized content for a specific customer base. Outbound marketing is not targeted: it advertises products to a large, diverse audience in hopes of finding a few interested customers.

Is content marketing better than PPC?

Both are good inbound strategies, but content marketing is generally more cost-effective and long-lasting.

Is Google Ads inbound or outbound?

It can be used as both: if your ads are targeted at a specific demographic, for instance, these ads will be classified as inbound.

Is content marketing for SaaS expensive?

The cost is usually between $5000 to $50,000+ per month, so it depends completely on your company’s size, budget, and resources, but it’s definitely cheaper than outbound marketing.