How to Generate Sales Through Inbound Marketing for SaaS

Does having people search for your brand name or solutions on Google sound like a dream come true?

For most B2B or B2C SaaS companies, this is the case.

Having inbound sales means fewer costs and wasted resources are spent on outbound sales, such as going through lists of thousands of cold prospects or spending tens of thousands of dollars on Facebook or LinkedIn ads.

How to start getting actual customers knocking on your door is a challenging feat, especially because SaaS products generally face challenges such as market immaturity, high competition, and higher average deal sizes.

Unless the customer is immediately convinced that this product is what they need to solve their challenges, it will be hard to persuade them to buy right away. A number of factors go into this decision:

One of them is brand credibility. Has the customer heard of your brand? Is it well spoken of within the community?

A great example is 'appointment making' in the professional world. You can easily say to a connection, I'll give you my Calendly, and 99% of the time, they'll know exactly what you're talking about.

This is a clear example of a company that has established brand credibility and, in this case, the dominance of an industry niche.

Second, is the ad and website copy of your SaaS business on point with your customer's challenges and clearly defines how the product is going to solve them?

Most customers have a plethora of challenges. However, most of these problems extend from a root cause.

Software companies with a masterful grasp of their target audience's root cause problems and can synthesize this information through their website copy will experience more conversions than companies with generic messaging.

Finally, for B2B customers, how likely are the decision makers around me going to convert? Is there relevant content available that will help convince my partner, director, or CEO? Remember, the sales process involves more people when you're selling a tool to larger organizations.

Fortunately, developing a long-term SaaS inbound marketing strategy will help to address most, if not all, of these challenges.

Before we get into it, let's take a look at what inbound marketing is and how it differs from traditional marketing.

What Is Inbound Marketing?

Let's say I'm a dashing young suitor looking to settle down with a lovely lady. I have my eyes set on a gorgeous brunette that comes to the same bar I go to every weekend.

I have two options:

I can frequent the bar as I regularly do, put some extra effort into my dress, put myself in a visible position (i.e. the bar), smile, and make eye contact with her if she looks in my direction. Maybe on the third night, she'll come up to the bar herself (with the egging on by her girlfriends), and I'll introduce myself and ask her how her day is going and what could make it better.

The second option, I can go up to her right away when she's in the middle of having a conversation with a girlfriend and try to introduce myself.

Which one of these tactics do you think will build trust and lead to a relationship?

If you're like any sane person, or if you're a woman, you'll probably choose the first option as the answer.

The first option is like inbound marketing. You're "attracting" new customers to you by consistently delivering valuable content that solves their challenges. The goal is to build a relationship with the prospect, nurture them through the sales funnel, and eventually convert them into paying customers.

The second, more intrusive option resembles outbound marketing. You're pushing content or sales messaging on people who fit your ideal profile but haven't shown evident interest in your product. Examples include utilizing social media ads, billboards, cold sales calls, and cold emails.

Diminishing returns graph. Y Column labeled "Success of outbound marketing". X column labeled "Time".

Outbound marketing tactics may feel immediately rewarding when you manage to get some customers signed up, but it's much harder to scale compared to inbound marketing efforts.

Why is Inbound Marketing Important?

Compared to inbound marketing, traditional outbound marketing methods faces the following challenges:

  • The costs of ads are increasing (Facebook's CPM is up 61% year over year, and Tiktok increased 185% year over year).
  • Ads are becoming less trustworthy due to over-saturation.
  • Influencer marketing is taking precedence over ads—however, this is also getting more expensive.

By deploying an inbound marketing strategy, you're setting up your brand for savings and long-term success.

Exponential Growth graph. Y Column is labeled "Success of inbound marketing. X Column labeled "Time".

Trust and credibility are essential for SaaS companies that wish to establish market dominance, which is the ultimate goal of the inbound marketing strategy. This requires consistent relationship building with their target audience and regularly improving their products based on customer feedback.

The way you build trust is by increasing the number of opportunities for engagement. The biggest opportunity is to create valuable content and repurpose it for social media consistently. Additionally, you can open support groups or niche topic groups on your Business Meta page and have a community moderator respond to incoming customer feedback or questions.

The promptness and frequency of responses from the company to the customer are visible to everyone on social media posts and provide a sense of security. Onlookers may see this type of reciprocal relationship as something they would want if they invested in a product. No one wants to be left with a robot or a wall when they urgently need a problem fixed, especially in the tech space.

The purpose of inbound marketing is to nurture interested customers to the point when they are ready to buy. It'll be an instantaneous decision to go with your solution.

The Four Areas of Inbound Marketing

Most of your inbound marketing efforts will grow in four core areas:

Website

Having a professional, elegant, and user-friendly website is crucial. Think of your website as the forefront of your brand. This is where people will come to see whether your product meets their challenges.

Having solid website copy that precisely explains how your product will solve your customer's challenges appeals to the logical part of people's decision-making.

Case studies, testimonials, and security assurance features are useful to build trust right away.

The next part is appealing to people's emotions. This part is a little more complicated, as you're trying to build a consistent brand narrative that gives your company a bit of personality. This makes your brand more relatable and encourages people to build a relationship with it rather than view it as purely transactional.

Third-party platforms

Reputable publications, blogs, YouTube, and review sites are crucial for generating inbound marketing leads. People might not believe what you say about your product but will consider what other satisfied customers or unbiased reviewers say.

Start networking and building relationships early on with influencers in the SaaS industry, journalists, and other media parties. Offer them free trials of your products in exchange for an honest review. Make sure you have a solid content promotion strategy.

Aside from their resource-packed blogs, Ahrefs has made a marketing investment into video content with their bustling YouTube channel that consistently teaches people helpful SEO and content writing tips. Their subscribers are more likely to purchase their SEO tool as opposed to their competitor, SEMrush or Moz, if they consistently consume and benefit from their content.

Google and other search engines

When people look for a solution to solve a nagging challenge, the first place they go to is... That's right! Google.

Building a solid reputation on search engines is crucial for gaining more traffic to your website, which leads to more opportunities for conversion.

The higher your website is ranked for relevant keywords, the more likely people will trust the information there. People rarely go past page 2 if they're trying to look for a solution. According to Google, it ranks content according to its quality and authoritativeness.

Ensure you constantly update and optimize your content to rank for important, relevant keywords to your business.

Social media channels

Social media engagement is the easiest way to reach new audiences and build a loyal community. Creating useful and digestible content for social media is the best magnet for potential customers.

Find out where your ideal customer goes to consume information—maybe LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, or Spotify.

One way you can perform user research is by polling/surveying your existing customers, such as by prompting people to participate in a short poll after they made a purchase on your site.

Through an email marketing strategy, you can deliver educational content right to your customer's mailboxes through marketing newsletters.

The First Step of Inbound Marketing: Know Your Customer

Diagram with three overlapping circles-demographic, psychographic and firmographic data.

One common mistake that SaaS businesses make is that they start creating content based on what they think would be interesting.

Before you embark on the content creation journey, marketers must know who they're targeting and how they like consuming information.

Forming a buyer persona, which is a hypothetical model of your ideal audience, is the first step. Then, you must pinpoint which problems your SaaS can solve.

You want to know who your ideal customer is so you can craft messaging that appeals to them and laser focus on their specific challenges.

Let's say you want to market a productivity tool. You start a marketing campaign with generic copy about how this tool will increase your overall work productivity. 

If you swing your net wide and far like this, you'll unlikely come up with high-quality catches.

By leveraging inbound strategies, you can narrow down your ideal customer to a sales representative at a tech startup. You may want to pinpoint the features that are especially appealing to this type of persona's challenges in your copy.

Perhaps these are automation features for the lead gen processes, integration with salesforce, and other CRM features.

The more you're able to personalize your offer, the more attractive your product is to these select audiences. But you can't personalize until you know who you're targeting.

With Google Analytics, you can determine your ideal customers by analyzing existing client data, site visitors, keywords they're searching for (identify challenges), and which pages they spend the most time on (interests).

You can also perform market research through surveys, interviews, and polls and look for reviews on similar products.

Separate Active Buyers from Passive

A linear diagram of the customer's journey

The crucial thing that's required for inbound marketing is...patience. People who engage with your content are either previous customers, active customers, or new prospects who are shopping. And just because they're interested doesn't mean they're ready to buy at that time. Nevertheless, it's important to follow up with these prospects regularly.

You want to focus your efforts on retargeting people who have demonstrated interest in your product. These might be people that have signed up for a free e-book or filled out another type of form on your website.

On social media channels, watch out for people commenting or posting with brand mentions and monitor the type of content your competitor's audience responds well to.

You can DM a potential customer like this with a personalized message, or if you have their emails, offer them introduction discounts..etc.

Once you've targeted the active buyers, you can try your luck on passive buyers—people that fit your ideal customer profile but haven't taken any actions that indicate interest in your brand.

Step 2: Keyword Research and Social Media Trends

Now that you know which segment of the population you're targeting, the next step is ensuring your content reaches them.

The most efficient way to do this is through paid social media advertising. However, this can get quite expensive, especially for SaaS companies that are on a tight budget.

The more cost-efficient way to maximize your inbound marketing efforts is by optimizing your content for the most relevant keywords to your business.

Based on your product and the challenges your ideal customers have, you should be able to compile a list of relevant keywords. Narrow them down using an SEO tool like Ahrefs to see their monthly search volume and keyword difficulty.

You want to aim for keywords with high SV and low to medium difficulty for the best results.

In terms of coming up with unique content, you want to do research on what's trending on social media platforms (TikTok and Instagram) and try to replicate that formula or content format, but with your unique angle.

For example, if short 5-second productivity hack reels are performing well, and you have a productivity SaaS product, you can create something similar to increase the chances of it being shared. Content marketing tools like Buzzsumo allow you to find and monitor trending topics in your niche.

Step 3: Develop High-Quality Content

Once you know who you're targeting and what to write about, here comes the fun part…the actual content creation!

Headlines

Write clear headlines addressing a specific challenge people are trying to solve. You can get creative and use controversial, negative statements to produce a curious effect.

For example, instead of "How to rank for SaaS SEO," you can write "Here's How to Not Rank for SaaS SEO."

Avoid clickbait headlines because writing content that doesn't solve the promised solution in the headline will lead to skyrocketing bounce rates and penalization from Google.

Research Process for Content Marketing

Research the top performing content on Google search (In the first two pages) for your selected keywords and see what types of questions and tips they provide.

Don't replicate the existing content; instead, seek to contribute value to the discussion or take a unique angle. No one wants to read the same thing over and over again.

Specific use cases, case studies, and top-notch research are practical things to incorporate into your content marketing efforts. This type of content appeals to the logic of potential customers and can help prompt them to take action because it logically would bring them closer to their desired goal or objective.

Clearly stating your ideal customer's challenges, pain points, and adverse outcomes they want to avoid in your content appeals to their emotions.

A value-packed content piece with a combination of logical and emotional triggers increases the chances of your content marketing efforts making a high-converting impact.

Step 4: Build Credibility Through Different Channels

Once you have a good content marketing workflow going for you, your goal is to build credibility as a brand. Try and build relationships with tech blogs or other reputable business publications.

Guest Posting

You can build backlinks back to your website by gaining guest posts on other blogs. This will also expose you to an audience that already trusts the advice of the blog they frequent.

Backlink Outreach

You can do backlink outreach when you see content on another website that you think can genuinely benefit from a link to your content (i.e. your content explains a certain concept in greater depth, for it is backed with statistical research or data).

For example, an SEO blogger might be discussing inbound marketing strategies in one post but feel like to better understand buyer personas, the audience should refer to a guide done by Search Engine Journal on that topic. That's an example of when backlink outreach is beneficial to both parties.

The fact is, for your content to get backlinks, it needs to be stellar, or the source of that backlink would also lose credibility.

If you're a SaaS company looking to deploy the perfect backlink strategy to gain authority and keyword positioning for your post, make sure you sign up for a free SEO audit from our team here.

Step 5: Keep Building the Relationship

Now that you're gaining some traction from your content marketing, you might have some interested prospects signing up for demos or calls.

If you're selling software to a business, it's unlikely they'll purchase your solution based on the information they see on the website—regardless of how immaculate it is. This is because people have different contexts and challenges, even if they fit your ICP. People want to be heard, and people want to be sold, which is why you want to supercharge your sales teams with a few relationship-geared tips.

On the initial introduction call, your job as the salesperson is not to hard sell your prospect but to keep your ears wide open.

Figure out where they are in the buyer journey

First, seek to understand what their problems are and probe them to go further. Your job is to determine through this call where they are in the buyer journey and whether your product fits what they're looking for. If not, you might convince them to buy the product, but they will not be satisfied.

Don't risk your credibility as a brand over a quick sale.

After you pinpoint their challenges, inquire about their budget and urgency. Is solving this challenge a priority? How much are they willing to spend?

If prospects have precise answers to these questions, they move into the qualified leads category.

Act as an advisor

Now your job is to provide recommendations for solving these problems and demonstrate how your product can help them.

Do not make the mistake of pushing a solution onto a prospect when you don't fully understand their problems.

Many feel pressured to make a sale during the initial call. Decrease the risk of losing credibility with your prospect by using the meeting time to gather as much information as possible from them. After you're confident that you understand the breadth and depths of their problems, book a follow-up session and prepare a tailored sales presentation that connects their objectives to the features of your solution. Do this only if you know that the customer is a perfect match for your product.

This also gives the prospect the opportunity to bring a trustee ( a colleague or a higher-up) into the next call. The people they bring in might be the actual decision maker, but at least by this point, you know what value-adds you can provide for the company that are relevant to their specific challenges.

Final Tip: Having an Inbound Marketing Funnel

Three phases of the buyer jounrey: Awareness, Consideration, Decision.

You should have marketing content available for people in various stages of the buying journey.

To understand how to craft the perfect content marketing strategy, check out this post here.

The three stages you should target are awareness (top funnel), consideration (middle funnel), and conversion (bottom funnel).

Awareness content warms up your audience, lets them know what you're all about, and why they should keep coming back for valuable material.

This is where comprehensive how-tos and definitive guides come in handy. They offer your audience a plethora of information and research on topics they may be interested in.

Next is for people who are actively shopping for a solution like yours but need something more to nudge them in your direction. This could be whitepapers, use cases, webinars, and market data that shows the ROI of using a product like yours.

Finally, there's the category of people ready to buy urgently. They just need an extra nudge to make the decision. This could look like comparison pages to your competitors or discount offers and free trials.

Drive traffic to your website using SEO and demand-generation strategies. Collect information from your audience and segment them into active and passive buyers. Target active buyers with personalized messages (these have filled out a lead form) with clear CTAs such as "Sign up for a free week trial now."

Last Words

Inbound marketing for SaaS companies is foundational. But it's not a 'take one, leave the other' deal. Unless you're a household name, outbound marketing and sales will still be required. Most of the time, people are aware there is a solution out there that can address their problem, but there's no trigger that prompts them to take action. That's where outbound sales tactics are most useful—no one is going to take action if they're unaware there is one to be taken.

Most SaaS products require capital and commitment. People sitting at the decision table—whether it be a VP of Marketing or the founder of a small tech startup, don't necessarily want to read through your website for the granular details. 

They much rather hop on a 15-minute call and have the information presented to them in a way that addresses all their questions. The fact is, getting to this call doesn't always require inbound marketing efforts. But it obviously helps if they've heard of your brand either from the social media content or their associates.

Regardless of where your company is in its journey, it's never too late to start an inbound marketing strategy. In tandem with an outbound strategy, you're more likely to secure a loyal customer base and scale your sales.

If you want to learn more about how your SaaS company can benefit from an advanced content strategy, check out our previous article here or book a free call here.