Today, software drives the way the world functions. The SaaS industry, after all, is expected to grow 20 percent in 2017 to reach a total value of almost $47 billion by year’s end, according to Gartner. SaaS (software as a service) companies now take advantage of the digital download model to give their customers the convenience of easy access. In a post-CD era, website user experiences are prioritized to help potential and current customers understand the value of their software. In an environment where prospective consumers can research and select their software within a few minutes of perusing articles, watching videos, listening to podcasts or testing demos, there must be a digital marketing model to meet users where they live.
Inbound marketing is that digital marketing model.
Powered by software such as HubSpot, inbound marketing specializes in attracting leads and nurturing them methodically until they’re ready to become a fully-fledged purchasing customer. This aligns well with the SaaS model, since tech-savvy users will cross-reference resources to see which competing software can best meet their needs at a given time. The nurturing process is also important for user retention, where SaaS companies typically see the bulk of their revenue. In such a competitive environment, where users have access to a myriad of articles, demos and videos, giving the user the power of knowledge and guidance can push a SaaS company over the edge. In this world, the inbound model thrives.
SaaS’s Unique Traits Play into Inbound Marketing’s Strengths
SaaS companies earn their revenue over the lifespan of a user’s relationship with the software. This means SaaS companies often run a deficit trying to attract new users since revenue isn’t realized right away. This puts the development of a relationship with leads at premium. They want the upfront investment in lead generation and customer acquisition to be worth the return since they’ll have to make up for the loss over time.
Inbound marketing focuses on generating awareness of software through social media marketing, email marketing and distribution of content (blogs, e-books, podcasts, videos, demos) in exchange for valuable contact information. Through these means, leads are nurtured by continuous streams of content that targets their specific interests. As the leads move closer to becoming a customer and advance in the “buyer’s journey”, the content they receive will be less problem-oriented and more focused on the specific software options. In this way, sales qualified leads (SQLs) can be easily identified.
Generally, the end goal for inbound marketing is just to land the customer, but the nurturing process is likely to increase the chances of user retention. The same tools used for lead acquisition and conversions are the same or similar to those used for retention and revenue generation.
The Importance of Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
One of the primary goals of inbound marketing is to bolster the visibility of websites on search engines like Google, a practice better known as search engine optimization. Ranking highly for keywords related to an industry niche can drive high volumes of traffic to a site, especially if a website rests on the first page or, ideally, the first three results in the search. According to Search Engine Watch, ranking on the first page boosts search traffic by as much as 33 percent. The boost is 17 and 11 percent for the second and third spots, respectively. When searching for the keyword “music notation software,” MuseScore is the first option available, beating out the more professional Sibelius software suite. In this way, MuseScore can compete with higher-end software because of its high SEO performance and drive higher traffic as a result.
More Bang for Your User Acquisition Buck
SaaS companies are rightfully hesitant to invest too much into user acquisition since revenue won’t be realized immediately. Inbound marketing allows those companies to do just that, allowing small teams to achieve lead generation results that would previously require more robust – and costly – staffs to accomplish. The secondary benefit, however, might be more valuable. By nurturing users through the “buyer’s journey” in a way that informs them, they are more likely to be retained in the long run.