Inbound Marketing Strategy for SaaS Organizations
In 2013, McKinsey proclaimed marketers as the rightful owners of the corporate growth agenda. In an economy where “grow fast or die slow” is the business mantra, growing revenue is the highest corporate priority. So, why is marketing in charge? Because in the SaaS industry, online business marketing allows access to more and better data than anyone else in the company to guide, manage, and accelerate revenue growth.
In the SaaS 1.0 days, growth strategies often boiled down to simple directives like, “Hire more sales reps!” That’s obviously not effective since the average B2B buyer today gets more than halfway through to a purchase decision before ever engaging with a sales rep. Under the old model, reps were largely responsible for their own pipelines while marketing managed branding and launched new products. As the SaaS model took hold in the enterprise, however, old-school marketing management has yielded increasingly dismal pipeline metrics and data driven marketing.
THE MARKETER’S “NUMERATOR PROBLEM”
In recent years, marketing technology has become much more efficient at engaging new buyers and converting them into qualified leads for sales to close. Companies’ inefficiency at the middle and bottom of the funnel was solved by CRM and marketing automation. Now the inefficiency is at the top of the funnel. As a result, today’s CMO’s have a numerator problem.
I think we have all said something like, “My pipeline growth targets are rising 300 percent faster than my budget!” The problem is growing that numerator faster with less budget requires more efficiency immediately.
Hiring more people can’t solve this problem. You need technology and a new inbound marketing strategy that delivers more productivity so you scale with limited resources. The seminal question is: How can you grow high-quality pipeline faster than your company’s revenue growth targets while improving the cost of acquiring new customers (CAC)?
The answer is three-fold:
- Expand the number of campaigns that are generating new, high-quality leads/trials.
- Optimize your existing campaigns to dramatically increase conversion rates.
- Remove wasted time/money spent on the wrong activities.
With that in mind, utilize the following 5 tactics.
A successful CMO’s most critical contribution is sustained, predictable company growth. Determine your company’s vision for maximizing growth, prioritizing the right work and share this vision to rally the entire company behind the goal of faster growth.
Create the right plan based on the math of your business and an investment strategy optimized to beat your future pipeline/revenue AND productivity goals (e.g. CAC/Magic Number).
Engage your executive team and marketing leaders to align on the right goals by function, and establish monthly operational reporting with weekly dashboards and reviews. Align your team’s compensation with its monthly goals to reinforce the importance of its results relative to beating your company’s growth goals.
Set the right goals and report the right metrics. Integrate new technology, channels, and processes to help you scale along with your company’s revenue goals. Focus more on productivity of your existing team versus hiring new people. Once you show results, it will be easier to add programs/people faster.
- REPORT AND REFINE
Set, measure, and report the right metrics. Summarize and adjust your investment mix quarterly, leveraging solid data that you and your CEO trust.
If your funnel cycle is 90 days, then you need 1,000 new visitors today to add 10 new customers in 90 days. You will also see a percentage of each month’s new business coming from leads generated many months ago – call them slow leads. Consider them upside until you learn what percentage of each month’s revenue you can predict coming from these known/slow leads.
Now with the Correct Inbound Marketing Strategy in place execution is key. So what is execution?
- DEMAND INTENT: Where to focus your teams’ priorities? What pain statements and keyword phrases are driving new buyers into your funnel? Look across your inbound and outbound marketing channels like organic search, paid search, social, and email marketing. Once you have a stack-ranking of the top 20 phrases, expand and optimize your digital campaigns to reach more buyers.
- CONTENT OPTIMIZATION: Do you know where all of your content lives? What content works best when promoted to which persona and stage of interest? Here are three things to think about content:
- Offers: What are you offering your audience in exchange for their contact information the first time they find your company?
- Landing pages, email layout and copy: Is the content on the page telling them that your company understands their problem and can solve it?
- Credibility builders: Especially if you are small, include awards, press and other items that build credibility.
- REPORTING METRICS: How you will determine which campaigns, content, and keywords/pain statements are working to accelerate your growth. Make sure that you ultimately measure the direct impact on revenue, in addition to traffic levels and conversion rates.
As your team expands its digital reach, you will see clear areas where you can expand your marketing programs: where to launch new campaigns, where to optimize existing campaigns, and where you have content gaps. But as you expand, it is critical to maintain benchmarks against past results (beware of seasonality) and against your competition. Within 90 days you will learn a great deal and be able to see where to make adjustments in your investments and priorities.
The next step is to break down your teams’ goals and forecasts to track and report actual results on a weekly and monthly basis. After a few months, your ability to predict future revenue will be far better by using marketing reports over sales forecast. You need to agree on what matrix you will need to report on and how to measure success with those matrix.